PHOTONICS WEST PREVIEW: SPIE Photonics West 2012 continues growth streak

Dec. 7, 2011
After outgrowing the San Jose convention center and moving to San Francisco in 2010, SPIE Photonics West 2012 will grow yet again, both in terms of number of attendees as well as technical content and exhibition size.
(Courtesy Harvard University/MGH)
FIGURE 1. Among the 'Hot Topics' that will be discussed at the popular Saturday evening BiOS session is the 'bio laser' developed at Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital, which both CNN and The New York Times covered this summer.
FIGURE 1. Among the "Hot Topics" that will be discussed at the popular Saturday evening BiOS session is the "bio laser" developed at Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital, which both CNN and The New York Times covered this summer.

In the latest advance program announcement from Photonics West ( conference organizer SPIE (Bellingham, WA), SPIE Photonics West 2012 is officially declared "The largest [annual] photonics and laser conference in the world." After outgrowing the San Jose convention center in 2009 and moving to San Francisco in 2010, Photonics West will grow again in 2012, both in terms of number of attendees as well as technical content and exhibition size. The conference will be held from January 21–26, 2012, at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco.

An estimated 19,000 attendees are expected for technical sessions, industry panels, two exhibitions, and other society and networking events covering advances in medical therapeutics and diagnostics, laser technology—including semiconductor, gas, fiber, and diode lasers, micro/nanofabrication, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), optoelectronic materials and devices, displays, communications, and related topics.

On the opening weekend, nearly 200 exhibiting companies are expected for the BiOS Expo on Saturday and Sunday, January 21–22. And with more than 1,150 exhibiting companies, the Photonics West exhibition held Tuesday through Thursday, January 24–26, includes new product announcements, international pavilions from several countries, photonics clusters from four U.S. states, product demonstrations, and the SPIE Job Fair to help attendees avoid being another statistic in the "jobless recovery."

Paper submissions have increased approximately 6% compared to 2011, with nearly 4,300 papers scheduled for presentation in the conference’s four symposia (as well as a fifth “virtual” symposium on Green Photonics): Biomedical Optics (BiOS) offers 1,795 papers; Lasers (LASE) will present 710 papers; MOEMS-MEMS includes 226 papers; and Optoelectronics (OPTO) lists 1,495 papers. Just after the meeting concludes, accepted papers will be published in the SPIE Digital Library and in print volumes and digital collections.


The Biomedical Optics Symposium (BiOS), which opens an exhibition prior to the main expo (January 21–22), will once again dominate Photonics West. Organizer SPIE says exhibit space has been expanded to accommodate the growing number of exhibitors, which for BiOS 2012 will total more than 195 (15% growth over 2011). But while this is just 17% of the total number of Photonics West exhibitors, you’ll find that many booths in the main expo also feature life sciences products and applications.

In terms of percentages, it’s easier to understand the event’s emphasis on life sciences by looking at the technical program, co-chaired once again by James Fujimoto (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Rox Anderson (Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard School of Medicine): Nearly 45% of the papers presented at Photonics West 2012 will focus on biomedical optics. Among the topics the program addresses through courses and workshops are biophotonics for treatment of stroke, epilepsy, and vision loss in addition to innovative approaches to cancer detection and treatment and technologies, including microscopy and optical coherence tomography. The technical program offers tracks on photonic therapeutics and diagnostics; clinical technologies and systems; tissue optics, laser-tissue interaction, and tissue engineering; biomedical spectroscopy, microscopy, and imaging; and nano/biophotonics.

Program organizers have added a new conference for this year: Optical Techniques in Pulmonary Medicine. You’ll also find a conference on optical biopsy and more presentations on optogenetics (which Nature Methods selected as its ‘Method of the Year’ for 2010), including one on advances in optogenetics by Stanford University’s Karl Deisseroth, who coined the term. Another famous Stanford professor, W. E. Moerner, will deliver a plenary talk on single-molecule active control microscopy for nanoscale 3D cell images.

Other bio-optics pioneers are on the speaker list, too, including a few who will appear during the fun and fast-paced BiOS Hot Topics session on Saturday, January 21, from 7-9 pm. There, Daniel Palanker of Stanford University will describe a photovoltaic retinal prosthesis designed to help blind people gain vision, and Beckman Laser Institute’s (University of California, Irvine) Brian Wong will discuss new applications for optical coherence tomography (OCT) in the head, neck, and upper airway. Coherence imaging for oncology is the focus of two other talks: Duke University’s Adam Wax will discuss its use for early tumor detection, and Stephen Boppart of the University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign will explain the impact of novel optical sources in this arena. Speaking of novel sources, Seok Hyun ("Andy") Yun of Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital will describe work published recently in Nature on a laser made from a human embryonic kidney cell and GFP (see Fig. 1). Other speakers will discuss variations on microscopy: For instance, Xingde Li of Johns Hopkins University will introduce scanning fiber optic nonlinear endomicroscopy, while Elizabeth Hillman of Columbia University will give the audience a tour of a living brain using in-vivo microscopy. Another form of imaging will be the subject of a talk by Vasilis Ntziachristos of Munich’s Technical University, when he updates the audience on advances in fluorescence and opto-acoustics.

A number of awards will be given out during BiOS: In addition to the Student Poster Session Competition, presenters may enter competitions for the The PicoQuant Young Investigator Award, the JenLab Young Investigator Award, the Pascal Rol Award 2012, and the Seno Medical Best Paper Awards (Seno sponsors two awards), some of which give cash prizes. And while the organizers of the first annual Britton Chance Biomedical Optics Award have not stated that the first winner will be announced during BiOS, it’s likely that it will, because the nomination deadline was this past fall.

For entrepreneurial types, other competitions are the Biophotonics Start-up Challenge, which gives young researchers an opportunity to pitch ideas for products or businesses to a panel of experts. Ocean Optics and SPIE will present a panel of Blue Ocean open-innovation grant winners, to discuss the entrepreneurial process and approaches to activities such as networking, training, and planning.


The 2012 LASE Symposium promises to continue its tradition of capturing the very latest in the still rapidly advancing field of lasers and sources technology. A total of 27 conferences spanning both research and applications are contained within the Symposium’s five tracks: Laser Source Engineering, Nonlinear Optics, Semiconductor Lasers and LEDs, Laser Micro/Nanoengineering, and Laser Applications.

The Symposium is chaired by Friedhelm Dorsch of TRUMPF and Alberto Piqué of the U.S. Naval Research Lab. They also lead a Wednesday plenary session that will feature talks on plasmonics for beam shaping and wavefront engineering by Federico Capasso of Harvard, progress at NIF towards inertial fusion integration by Edward Moses of Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and approaches for lasers in manufacturing by Peter Leibinger of TRUMPF.

The Laser Source Engineering track includes an invited paper comparing the performance of high-power disk and fiber lasers from Rofin-Sinar Laser (Conference 8235) and another reviewing beam combination of kilowatt fiber lasers by Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (Conference 8237). A paper from the University of Southern California and the Indian Institute of Technology describes the use a photonic crystal to create guided resonances for light-assisted self-assembly and for structural-absorption engineering (Conference 8236).

Konstantin Vodopyanov of Stanford University chairs the Nonlinear Optics (NLO) track, which features invited papers on applications of two-photon absoption in semiconductors from researchers at CREOL (Conference 8240) and a keynote presentation on advances in third-order NLO materials (Conference 8258). In addition, researchers at the University of Southern California and University of Missouri-Columbia describe their work on a reconfigurable visible quantum dot microlaser that has been integrated on a silicon chip (Conference 8258). And a paper on self-assembly of plasmonic nanoclusters shows how these nanostructures can serve as building blocks for novel metamaterials (Conference 8269).

Semiconductor Lasers and LEDs is again chaired by Klaus P. Streubel of Osram and includes invited papers covering kilowatt-class direct diode lasers (Conference 8241), high-speed VCSELs, and VCSELs for optical coherence tomography (Conference 8276). And a paper from Harvard and Texas A&M presents results on mode locking and phase coherence in quantum-cascade lasers (Conference 8277).

As in recent years, Laser Micro/Nanoengineering highlights the latest advances in microelectronic and optoelectronic manufacturing, micro- and nano-scale packaging and assembly, and frontiers in plasmonics, nanoparticles, and graphene and carbon nanotubes. The track on Laser Applications includes a look at ultrafast optics in biomedical, scientific, and industrial applications such as laser fabrication of artificial biostructures (Conference 8247) and 3D fabrication (Conference 8243). Other topics include atmospheric and oceanic propagation of electromagnetic waves (Conference 8238). 


The MOEMS-MEMS Symposium attracted a total of 226 paper submissions in 2012an increase of 7% in comparison to 2011 and a clear sign of the growing importance of MOEMS-MEMS technology to both academia and industry. The "Advanced Fabrication Technologies for Micro/Nano Optics and Photonics V" (Conference 8249) and "Emerging Digital Micromirror Device Based Systems and Applications IV" (Conference 8254) saw the greatest growth.

"It’s great to see that standard components like the Texas Instruments DMD device and micro-scanning mirrors from various suppliers provide an increasing number of novel commercial optical applications from consumer to medical," says MOEMS-MEMS Symposium chair Harald Schenk, deputy director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS; Dresden, Germany). "Experts from all over the world will have the opportunity to learn about the latest developments in these fields as well about the latest trends in advanced fabrication, microfluidics, adaptive optics, and reliability."

"The quality of the work presented at MOEMS-MEMS is consistently high, and we are especially excited this year to offer two symposium-wide awards, one for Best Paper and one for Best Student Paper, with the winners to be announced at the MOEMS-MEMS Plenary Session [Monday, January 23, from 9-12 pm]," adds MOEMS-MEMS Symposium co-chair David Dickensheets, Montana State University (Bozeman, MT) professor. All authors who submit their manuscripts by the deadline will be considered for this distinction.

Following the awards presentations, three outstanding and internationally recognized experts will present their work in the MOEMS-MEMS Plenary Session. Caltech professor Michael Roukes begins with "Large-Scale integration of Nanosystems." Although nanoscience offers enormous potential to increase sensitivity at the quantum detection limit for unprecedented resolution on the molecular scale, the challenge is to realize large-scale integrated arrays by robust fabrication processes. Roukes shows promising approaches towards complex architectures that can enable next-generation biological tools and highly integrated nanophotonic technologies.

The second plenary talk from Samuel B. Shaevitz, CTO of Lilliputian Systems (Wilmington, MA) on "Powering the Wireless world with MEMS" explores MEMS fabrication methods to enable the use of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) that could overcome battery life issues in modern wireless electronics such as smartphones, and the third plenary presentation from University of Glasgow professor Jonathan Cooper describes "New Optical, Acoustic, and Electrical Diagnostics for the Developing World," focusing on solutions to overcome the devastating impact of such neglected diseases as sleeping sickness and bilharzias (see Fig. 2).
For the first time, a joint session with the LASER Symposium on Tuesday, January 24 (8:20-12 pm) will focus on picoprojectors: invited talks from Microvision, Lemoptix, Dyoptyka, and Optotune will highlight results and trends in miniaturization, display performance, and speckle reduction. Also for the first time, a special session called “Hot Industrial Topics in MEMS” will highlight product development efforts towards commercialization of wafer-level camera modules, adaptive optics, and bolometer arrays.

Finally, the prospects and future of microfluidics will be the topic of a panel discussion moderated by Holger Becker from microfluidic ChipShop (Jena, Germany).


One of the traditional pillars of the Photonics West symposium, OPTO covers leading-edge optical, integrated photonic, nanophotonic, and plasmonic research and development; it also shares some territory with LASE by including talks on semiconductor lasers and LEDs. Rounding out the OPTO program are conferences on displays (including holography), optical communications, and quantum applications.

The OPTO 2012 plenary session, to be held on Tuesday, January 23, from 8-10 am and chaired by Klaus Streubel of Osram GmbH (Munich, Germany), includes talks by Erez Hasman of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (Israel) on spin-degeneracy removal in nanostructures; Connie Chang-Hasnain of the University of California, Berkeley on high-contrast metastructures for integrated optics; and David Awschalom from the University of California, Santa Barbara on engaging spins in semiconductors for quantum information processing. The presentation given by Chang-Hasnain, a well-known vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) researcher, will highlight a new dielectric-grating concept based on subwavelength structures with large refractive-index contrast with their surroundings (see Fig. 3). The resulting optics can form components as fundamental as an ultrabroadband, high-reflectivity mirror for normal incidence or glancing angles, or a high-Q resonator with surface-normal output. Chang-Hasnain’s research appears also in 11 OPTO sessions, including "High-contrast grating optoelectronics" (8270-1; Sunday, January 22).

Researchers from the University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA) will describe their "Reconfigurable visible quantum-dot microlasers integrated on a silicon chip" (8258-20; Tuesday, January 24). This laser has an integrated silica ultrahigh-Q microcavity containing a quantum dot (QD) attached via a reversible, nondestructive bioconjugation process; the QD can be removed and replaced with an alternative QD without harming the device at all. As a result, the laser’s wavelength is switchable.

A group from Seoul National University (Seoul, South Korea) will reveal details on its "Three-dimensional floating display by a concave cylindrical mirror and rotational wedge prisms" (8280-11; Wednesday, January 25), in which a digital-micromirror-device projector is combined with a charge-controlled mirror and a spinning wedge prism to create 3D images viewed in a horizontal direction and projected with horizontal parallax. The projected images are predistorted in a proscribed way to counteract the distortions of the optical system, resulting in an undistorted final view. Experimental result will be highlighted.

Greg Mooradian of QinetiQ North America (Waltham, MA) will give an invited paper on "Underwater blue-green laser communications in support of undersea dominance" (8246-1; Tuesday, January 24). Underwater optical communications for the U.S. Navy, including submarine laser communications, must deal with the properties of seawater as the transmission medium, possible lack of stealth, and the potential to be jammed. Mooradian will detail the development of blue-green laser communications (BGLC) technology to overcome these obstacles. As the key part of the Navy’s undersea network, BGLC will integrate undersea Navy operations with the U.S. Joint Force.

A researcher who has surely the most well-known name in all of LED research, Shuji Nakamura (currently at the University of California, Santa Barbara) will speak on "High efficient semipolar LEDs with a small droop" (8278-5; Tuesday, January 24). Nakamura created the first practical blue LEDs based on gallium nitride while he was at Nichia Corporation (Tokushima, Japan) in the early 1990s. His topic is extremely important, as LED efficiency droop (a drop in luminous efficacy as an LED is driven at desired higher currents) is the prime obstacle to further improving the efficiency of blue and UV LEDs for lighting.

Courses offered at OPTO, all chosen to be of high practical value, include "Design of Efficient Illumination Systems," "Photonic Crystals: A Crash Course, from Bandgaps to Fibers," "Silicon Photonics," "Applied Nonlinear Frequency Conversion," and several others (see for details).

Green photonics and more

Now in its second year, the Green Photonics virtual symposium will highlight approximately 50 papers from all of the four symposia at Photonics West in technologies surrounding energy sources and energy efficiency, sustainability, conservation, and other "green" attributes. Track topics include solid-state lighting and displays, laser-assisted manufacturing and micro/nano fabrication, communications, and renewable energy generation through photovoltaics.

In addition to the individual symposia, the Photonics West technical program includes around 65 short courses and professional development workshops and several panel discussions. Popular panel discussions will again include the "Silicon Photonics and Photonic Integrated Circuits" panel held on Tuesday afternoon (2-3 pm) and Wednesday afternoon’s (2-3 pm) "Executive Perspectives on the World of Optics and Photonics." A new panel entitled "Diagnostic Opportunities for Nonlinear Optical Microscopy" on Tuesday afternoon (3:30-4:30 pm) will be moderated by Laser Focus World former chief editor Steve Anderson, now SPIE industry and market strategist.

Don’t forget to dress casually for the SPIE Photonics West Welcome Reception, to be held on Monday, January 23, from 7-8:30 pm and themed "The Art of Optics" for its showcase of photonics-inspired art and of course, food and drinks for all. And finally, for one of the loudest and liveliest parties at the conference, exhibitors should not miss out on the annual PennWell-hosted Exhibitor Reception at Jillian’s from 5:30-7:30 pm on Tuesday, January 24, at 101 4th St., just around the corner from the convention center.

About the Author

Gail Overton | Senior Editor (2004-2020)

Gail has more than 30 years of engineering, marketing, product management, and editorial experience in the photonics and optical communications industry. Before joining the staff at Laser Focus World in 2004, she held many product management and product marketing roles in the fiber-optics industry, most notably at Hughes (El Segundo, CA), GTE Labs (Waltham, MA), Corning (Corning, NY), Photon Kinetics (Beaverton, OR), and Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA). During her marketing career, Gail published articles in WDM Solutions and Sensors magazine and traveled internationally to conduct product and sales training. Gail received her BS degree in physics, with an emphasis in optics, from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA in May 1986.

About the Author

John Wallace | Senior Technical Editor (1998-2022)

John Wallace was with Laser Focus World for nearly 25 years, retiring in late June 2022. He obtained a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and physics at Rutgers University and a master's in optical engineering at the University of Rochester. Before becoming an editor, John worked as an engineer at RCA, Exxon, Eastman Kodak, and GCA Corporation.

About the Author

Conard Holton | Editor at Large

Conard Holton has 25 years of science and technology editing and writing experience. He was formerly a staff member and consultant for government agencies such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and engineering companies such as Bechtel. He joined Laser Focus World in 1997 as senior editor, becoming editor in chief of WDM Solutions, which he founded in 1999. In 2003 he joined Vision Systems Design as editor in chief, while continuing as contributing editor at Laser Focus World. Conard became editor in chief of Laser Focus World in August 2011, a role in which he served through August 2018. He then served as Editor at Large for Laser Focus World and Co-Chair of the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar from August 2018 through January 2022. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, with additional studies at the Colorado School of Mines and Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

About the Author

Barbara Gefvert | Editor-in-Chief, BioOptics World (2008-2020)

Barbara G. Gefvert has been a science and technology editor and writer since 1987, and served as editor in chief on multiple publications, including Sensors magazine for nearly a decade.

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