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Nanosciences exhibition explores physics of color and light

07 July 2009

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- SPIE President Prof. María Yzuel offered strong praise for a new exhibition in Paris that connects discoveries by Nobel Laureate Gabriel Lippmann with contemporary nanotechnology to provide an understanding of color and light.

"The World in Color (Un Monde en Couleurs): From Gabriel Lippmann to Nanophotonics" is presented by the Île-de-France Center for Competence in Nanosciences and organized by the French Optical Society. The exhibition opened 23 June and runs through 10 January 2010 at the Palais de la Découverte, the renowned Parisian Museum of Science.Maria Yzuel and Jean-Marc Fournier at "Un Monde en Couleurs"

President of the Organizing Committee is Prof. Jean-Marc Fournier, a long-time SPIE member active in SPIE conferences on electronic imaging and related topics. He is on the program committee for the SPIE Photonics West conference on Complex Light and Optics Forces.

"The exhibition is excellent," Yzuel said. "It demonstrates important concepts in physics and in optics, such as interferometry, diffraction, light dispersion, materials science, and nanotechnology. It includes original photographs by Lippmann and some photographs made by Prof. Fournier according to the Lippmann method, with a perfect reproduction of colors. I was astonished." Yzuel was among invited guests attending the exhibition opening ceremony on 25 June.

Yzuel noted that the Lippmann photographic method was the inspiration for the invention by Yuri Denisyuk of volume holography, and stressed the educational value of the exhibition. "The connection of an old invention with cutting-edge technology is very motivating for students. Seeing these important and interesting pieces may encourage them to decide to go into science or engineering," she said.

Color photographs were made as early as 1869 by Ducos du Hauron, using a tri-color process, Fournier noted. "Working 20 years later, first published in 1891, Lippmann was the first to accurately reproduce tones and tints for color photography by using the revolutionary process he developed based on interference phenomenon," Fournier said.

More than 100 years after his 1908 Nobel Prize in Physics, Lippmann's discoveries have significant echoes in contemporary nanotechnology. The exhibition includes an example in the form of an ensemble of nanospectrometers based on Lippmann's principle, and installed on a 1cm2 chip. An identical resolution with conventional technologies would require a spectrometer weighing as much as an elephant, Fourier said.

The exhibition compares how colors manifest, contrasting colors from dyes and pigments, which follow the laws of chemistry, and structural colors, which follow the laws of physics. It explores processes involved with sensing color, from the propagation of electromagnetic waves to interaction with the eye and brain. Starting from electromagnetic waves, the exhibition explains how the interaction of light waves with nanoparticle structures leads to colors, which are sensation created in the visual cortex. The exhibit also displays examples of nanophotonics that address the color revolution going on in modern optical microscopy.

SPIE is the International Society for Optics and Photonics, founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. Serving more than 188,000 constituents from 138 countries, the Society advances emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, patent precedent, and career and professional growth. SPIE annually organizes and sponsors approximately 25 major technical forums, exhibitions, and education programs in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific, and supports scholarships, grants and other education programs. For more information, visit SPIE.org.

Photo caption: Above left, SPIE President Prof. María Yzuel and exhibition organizer Prof. Jean-Marc Fournier examine a hologram display in the recently opened "Un Monde en Couleurs" exhibition.

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