SPIE OPTICS + PHOTONICS: Optics + Photonics sees nano and solar future

This year’s 2007 SPIE Optics + Photonics show (Aug. 26-30; San Diego, CA) was divided into four topical areas: NanoScience + Engineering (Nano), Solar Energy + Applications (Solar), Photonic Devices + Applications (Photonics), and Optical Engineering + Applications (Optics).

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This year’s 2007 SPIE Optics + Photonics show (Aug. 26-30; San Diego, CA) was divided into four topical areas: NanoScience + Engineering (Nano), Solar Energy + Applications (Solar), Photonic Devices + Applications (Photonics), and Optical Engineering + Applications (Optics). The conference featured a three-day exhibition, four days of technical courses spanning all of the major technical topical areas, workshops and events for students, and technical special events on illumination, adaptive optics, lens design, and x-ray/EUV optics.

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A microscopic diffractive optical element in the shape of a flywheel can be produced using two-photon photopolymerization (left). The photopolymerized nanomachine is immersed in water and imaged using bright-field microscopy (right); the object produces orbital angular momentum and can rotate when illuminated with a Gaussian laser beam.
Click here to enlarge image

Optics + Photonics 2007 attendance reached about 5100-a healthy increase over the 4400 attendees in 2006. In addition, last year’s offering of 2600 technical presentations grew to more than 3100 technical presentations this year.

Plenary sessions

The plenary sessions were closely aligned with the four topical conference areas. Thomas Feist, manager of the Thin Films Laboratory in Micro and Nano Structures Technologies at GE Global Research (Niskayuna, NY) provided an overview of the organic and inorganic solar-energy technologies such as roll-to-roll compatible dye-sensitized solar cells and classic silicon or crystalline PV technologies, respectively, that have the potential to achieve 80% conversion efficiencies.

Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop, head of the School of Physical Sciences and a director of the Centre for Biophotonics and Laser Science at the University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia) spoke on “Optically Driven Mechanical Micro/Nanosystems in Classical and Quantum Realms.” Her many videos displayed in real time the use of orbital angular momentum of light to optically induce rotation of birefringent calcium carbonate nanoparticle spheres and other nanomachines within fluids; she explained how these spinning nanoparticles can be used to noninvasively determine the viscosity of fluids in the eye and even of intracellular fluids.

Kristina Johnson, dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University (Durham, NC) discussed the latest developments in stereoscopic and holographic 3-D displays. She reviewed the history of 3-D theater, from the earliest polarized glasses used in 3-D movies of the 1950s, to a stereoscopic projection display room at Duke that holds 10 people wearing virtual-3-D glasses, but costs about $600,000. She noted that the conversion from 2-D displays to 3‑D single-stereoscopic projectors is the next step, being driven by Hollywood movies, the gaming industry, and sporting events.

Focus on astronomy

The Optics technical conference was brimming with presentations on space-mission proposals, and the Astronomical Optics and Instrumentation track revealed just how much activity is happening in space-based astronomy. In a talk, “Instrumentation for Future Cold Far Infrared Space Missions,” Matt Bradford at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL; Pasadena, CA) described the concept of next-generation far-IR (100 to 1000 µm) cryogenic spaceborne observatories, the next step beyond large-aperture mirrors in reducing the photon noise limit. Identifying early solar systems and black holes requires such high spectral resolution that temperature becomes more important than aperture, said Bradford. A Japanese 3.5 m cold telescope, SPICA-ISAS/JAXA, is planned for launch in 2017. Missions led by the U.S. are planned for 2020, namely the 10 m Single Aperture Far-InfraRed (SAFIR) and the 4 m Cryogenic Aperture Large Infrared Space Telescope Observatory (CALISTO) missions.

Bert Pasquale of NASA-Goddard (Greenbelt, MD) discussed the proposed Dark-Energy Space Telescope (DESTINY), which would use a 0.12° field of view at an angular resolution of 0.15 arcsec in the wavelength range from 0.85 to 1.7 µm to probe dark matter via high-redshift Type Ia supernovae and gravitational lenses. If the DESTINY proposal is selected over competitors such as the Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM), it would orbit outside the Earth-Moon system for six years of observations.

Other sections outside the astronomy section also concentrated on space-based study. For example, in a photonics session on IR detectors and focal-plane arrays, several speakers presented their work on astronomical applications of 2-D arrays. Large-format, composite focal-plane arrays have grown from the ubiquitous 2048 × 2048-pixel size of the HAWAII-2RG at Teledyne Imaging Systems (Camarillo, CA) to the 4096 × 4096-pixel size at both Teledyne and Raytheon Vision Systems (Goleta, CA); they grow in leaps with each advance in molecular-beam epitaxy, substrate material, and read-out integrated-circuit technology (see “IR focal-plane arrays enable imaging that is out of this world,” p. 75).

Exhibition and new products

The Optics + Photonics exhibition showcased the products and capabilities of 266 vendors. New-product announcements included HeatBuster hot-mirror and spectral metal thin-film coatings from Deposition Sciences (DSI; Santa Rosa, CA) that can satisfy many military applications, the FASTCAM MH-4 camera system from Photron USA (San Diego, CA) for imaging in hostile conditions such as vehicle-impact testing, and a compact snapshot indium gallium arsenide shortwave-IR camera system from SUI Goodrich (Princeton, NJ) that provides image capture from pulsed events or moving objects within one frame. PhaseView-USA (San Diego, CA) demonstrated its MicroPhase 3-D topography system-a low-cost profiler based on patented digital-phase technology-that can measure in the nanometer range and be retrofitted to existing microscopes.

Gail Overton and Valerie Coffey

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