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Demetri Psaltis: Optofluidics for energy applications

With the possibility of small-scale reactors, artificial photosynthesis may enable new forms of solar energy that can be stored.
2 July 2012, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201207.02

Demetri Psaltis is professor and director of the Optics Laboratory and dean of the School of Engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland), a position he has held since 2007. Prior to that (1980 - 2007), he held several positions at Caltech, including Thomas G. Myers Professor (1996-2007) and Director for the DARPA Center for Optofluidic Integration (2004 - 2007).

He is one of the founders of the term and the field of optofluidics. He is also well known for his past work in holography, as applied to optical computing, holographic data storage, and neural networks. He is an author of more than 350 publications, contributed more than 20 book chapters, and holds more than 50 patents. He is a fellow of SPIE, OSA, and IEEE, and has received numerous awards for his work, including the SPIE Dennis Gabor Award (2006).

Optofluidics refers to a class of devices and techniques that combine optics and fluidics. Biophotonics has been a major application of optofluidics partially because in biology light is normally used to make measurements of entities suspended in liquids. Therefore biophotonics naturally combines fluids and optics. The same thing is true in the field of solar fuels where generally chemicals in liquid form are exposed to sunlight which catalyzes or thermally accelerates a chemical reaction that generated useful fuels. The design of a solar fuel system requires the simultaneous optimization of the optical and fluidic properties of the system.