CLEO/QELS & PhAST: Something for everyone

The 2005 Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics/Quantum Electronics and Laser Science Conference (CLEO/QELS, May 22-27), once again presented an increasingly broad-based program that reflects the increasingly broad spectrum of technologies and applications in this field.

Jun 1st, 2005

BALTIMORE, MD - The 2005 Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics/Quantum Electronics and Laser Science Conference (CLEO/QELS, May 22-27), once again presented an increasingly broad-based program that reflects the increasingly broad spectrum of technologies and applications in this field. For the second year in a row, the Photonic Applications, Systems, and Technologies (PhAST) program was held in conjunction with CLEO/QELS and is an applications-oriented series of presentations that complement the historically theoretical research emphasis of CLEO/QELS.

The variety of conference topics was illustrated by the speaker presentations at the plenary sessions, which were divided into separate Monday evening and Wednesday morning sessions. On Monday evening, Arpad Bergh, president of the Optoelectronics Industry Development Association (OIDA; Washington, D.C.; www.oida.org), discussed how the convergence of communications, computers, and consumer electronics will lead to new optoelectronics markets and a surge in LED and sensor demand for cell phones, optical data storage, optical interconnects, and flat-panel displays. He noted that countries such as Japan and Taiwan are leaders in broadband deployment due to committed government investment and that the United States will continue to fall seriously behind unless investment dollars are increased. The Monday plenary concluded with a presentation by Shuji Nakamura of the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB; Santa Barbara, CA; www.ucsb.edu) on one of these emerging growth areas: solid-state lighting for energy-efficient illumination.

In addition to the usual awards ceremony, the Wednesday plenary included a presentation by Christopher Contag of Stanford University (Stanford, CA; www.stanford.edu) showing how optical imaging can reveal the factors that cause stem cells to simply replicate or differentiate into more specialized cells; extremely timely considering recent controversial news events on embryonic stem-cell funding. Deborah Jin of JILA and the University of Colorado (Boulder, CO; jilawww.colorado.edu) talked about fermionic condensates-ultracold gases of matter that are enabling researchers to explore fundamental physics phenomena such as superconductivity.

Also representing the variety of conference topics was the mix of paper presentations selected for the Tuesday press luncheon. The growing importance of photonics to medical breakthroughs was highlighted by a presentation entitled “Applications of time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and brain tumor diagnosis” by Laura Marcu of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles, CA; www.csmc.edu). Research into the applicability of slow light to telecommunications and computing was illustrated by Stefan Linden from the Universität Karlsruhe (Karlsruhe, Germany; www.uni-karlsruhe.de) in his paper “Towards left-handed metamaterials at optical frequencies.” To provide insight into extreme states of matter inside planets and stars, as well as possible applicability to nuclear fusion processes, researchers are using ultrafast pulses of laser light to melt metals and other materials in ultrashort timeframes to understand their behavior. This research was discussed by R. J. Dwayne Miller of the University of Toronto (Toronto, ON, Canada; www.utoronto.ca) in his presentation “Femtosecond electron diffraction: an atomic-level view of condensed phase dynamics” in which he exclaims that the “camera for the molecular movie” is now in hand. Representative of the increasing number of papers on defense and homeland security was Michael Duncan’s presentation entitled “Sensor fusion for long-range airborne reconnaissance.” Mr. Duncan, from the Naval Research Lab (NRL; www.nrl.navy.mil), detailed how monochrome and multispectral/hyperspectral images are being improved and processed using intelligent algorithms to uncover hidden threats to national security.

Included in the QELS conference was a well-attended series of papers on nano-optics, including nanophotonics, resonant cavity nano-optics, nanoplasmonics, and spectroscopy of nanomaterials, nanoparticles, and single quantum dots. The PhAST conference also included nano-related presentations. Of particular interest was “Laser processing of polymeric and living biomaterials: how can we leverage nature’s nanotechnology?” by Douglas Chrisey at NRL on how thin films and three-dimensional biocompatible nano-composite or photonic crystal “scaffolds” are being used as substrates on which to grow organic tissue layers. PhAST also included an excellent overview of “Terahertz imaging and its applications,” by Mark Rosker of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA; www.darpa.mil) who explored, among other things, how improvements in electronic upconversion and photonic down conversion will be needed for the development of terahertz sources-one component of the overall system required to make terahertz imaging a reality.

Exhibitor participation strong

The exhibit at CLEO/QELS & PhAST had 100 more exhibitors compared to last year, and several new products were released at the show. Nufern (East Granby, CT; www.nufern.com) introduced a line of optical amplifier modules using their singlemode and large-mode area double-clad fiber at 1 mm and 1.55 mm, as well as new polarization-maintaining erbium/ytterbium double-clad fibers for LIDAR applications. Avo Photonics (Horsham, PA; www.avophotonics.com) announced their lead-free TEC-to-package assembly process to help manufacturers meet pending global regulations for lead-free components. Bookham’s New Focus Group (San Jose, CA; www.bookham.com) introduced their Venturi TLB-6600 swept wavelength tunable laser, with an unprecedented 2000 nm/s tuning speed over a 110-nm mode-hop-free tuning range. They also announced new wavelengths and improved power levels for their Velocity series of tunable lasers. Fianium (Southampton, United Kingdom; www.fianium.com) introduced the SC450-2 supercontinuum source with a wavelength range from 450-1700 nm, output power up to 2 W, and spectral density > 2 mW/nm for a variety of applications in optical coherence tomography and metrology. And, as a testament to the emerging commercialization of photonic products incorporating nanotechnology, Alnair Labs (Saitama, Japan; www.alnair-labs.com) introduced their CSM-500 series SAINT (saturable absorber incorporating nano tubes) for extending bit-rate and error-free transmission of amplified laser communication networks.

The 2005 CLEO/QELS & PhAST conference was attended by around 5200 individuals-a preliminary figure as of May 26, and a slight reduction compared to final attendance figures of just over 5800 at last year’s San Francisco event. However, there was a doubling in the number of papers submitted for the PhAST conference compared to last year, perhaps signaling an increasing conference emphasis away from pure research and towards real-world applications of laser and optoelectronic technology.

-Gail Overton

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