Frontiers in Optics highlights the cutting edge

ROCHESTER, NY-Frontiers in Optics 2006 (October 8-12, 2006), the 90th annual meeting of the Optical Society of America (OSA; Washington, DC), covered the latest developments in optical science and engineering with great success; in particular, its 975 technical presentations were up-to-the-minute, as is usual for the OSA’s annual meetings.

Nov 1st, 2006

ROCHESTER, NY-Frontiers in Optics 2006 (October 8-12, 2006), the 90th annual meeting of the Optical Society of America (OSA; Washington, DC), covered the latest developments in optical science and engineering with great success; in particular, its 975 technical presentations were up-to-the-minute, as is usual for the OSA’s annual meetings. Meeting attendance was up 42% from the year before, according to the OSA, and the exhibits grew by 44%.

Plenary presentations included a talk given by Steven Chu of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley, CA), co-winner of a Nobel Prize in 1997 for developing methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light; Chu’s talk concentrated on the role of photonics in creating clean, sustainable energy sources. Lee Goldstein of Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) outlined optical approaches to detecting and tracking Alzheimer’s disease; sensitive techniques promise detection before the onset of outward symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

At FiO 2006, OSA announced that Thomas Baer, who is executive director of the Stanford Photonics Research Center at Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA), was elected as the 2007 vice president of OSA. Baer will automatically become president-elect in 2008 and then the OSA’s president in 2009. He has previously been a division chair of OSA’s Quantum Electronics Division and its Optics in Biology and Medicine Division.

Technical sessions were grouped into the categories of Laser Science, Optical Fabrication and Testing, Organic Photonics and Electronics, and Frontiers in Optics.

In the same way that they have loomed large in this year’s technical journals, structured micro- and nano-optics such as metamaterials, plasmon-resonance structures, and photonic crystals were a central presence at the FiO technical sessions. Zinc oxide near-UV lasers composed of self-assembled opaline structures were discussed by researchers from Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and the University of Missouri-Rolla; while their lasing is random, confinement by the photonic-bandgap structure reduces threshold by a factor of five.

Researchers at the Swinburne University of Technology (Hawthorn, Australia) are creating 3-D photonic crystals in lithium niobate using ultrafast laser pulses; the material’s excellent nonlinear properties will lead to new applications. Many forms of micro- and nano-optics suitable for integration into planar-lightwave circuits were described; for example, a nanolayered gradient-index lens with demonstrated numerical aperture (NA) of 1.5 an a potential NA of 3 was discussed by researchers at Northwestern University and OptoNet (Evanston, IL), who noted that the lens is compatible with CMOS fabrication techniques.

Imaging at the extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) wavelength of 13 nm with a tabletop laser light source was demonstrated by researchers at Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley, CA), in their “XUV Sources and Science” talk. Imaging of dense lines ans spaces, elbows, and more-complicated targets was achieved. Normally, building-sized synchrotron light sources are required at this wavelength; the small Ti:sapphire-laser-pumped plasma source makes EUV-imaging capabilities available to many university labs.

Energy-efficient photonics were represented by the research efforts of Wanli Chi and Nicholas George of the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY), who, in a consumer-optics-oriented session, described a spherical optical element that extracts light from light-emitting diodes (LEDs) within it at high efficiency (98%), sidestepping the tendency of LEDs to hold onto their light due to total internal reflection. For a 300 µm LED die,the far-field output approaches a flat-top distribution with a ± 10° angular range-ideal for many applications.

-John Wallace

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