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    SPIE Photonics West Surpasses Expectations as Visitors Exceed 17,000

    Sold-out exhibition, 3000 presentations, 70 courses and record attendance indicate an upbeat optics and photonics industry.

    Bellingham, WA, Jan. 26 - Photonics West concluded yesterday and SPIE-the event organizer-reports that the technical conference, courses and exhibition attracted over 17,000 people during the week-long event. Photonics West continued the distinction of being the largest optics and photonics exhibit in the USA and the largest photonics technology conference anywhere in the world.

    Photonics West drew this audience with over 3,000 technical presentations, over 1,000 exhibiting companies, 70 professional development courses and a career fair with recruiters from 20 world-class companies. Associated events included plenary talks, market seminars, technology road-mapping workshops, standards group meetings, technical poster sessions and dozens of receptions hosted by industry leaders and government agencies.

    Thursday, 25 January

    Photonics West 2007 ends small with emphasis on nano

    The closing day of Photonics West played host to the Workshop on Building a Nanophotonics Roadmap, which brought together interested parties from three continents to identify and discuss issues in planning the future of nanophotonics. Breakout sessions took place on electronic-photonic convergence, international cooperation, market issues, and scaling up production.

    The reports from the four breakout groups were moderated by Thomas P. Piersall, European Photonics Industry Consortium (France). The convergence group identified silicon as the medium best fulfilling the requirements of integration density, volume, and performance over cost, in such pervasive applications as fiber to the home and server clusters. The group discussing international cooperation agreed on the need for standardization, as well as the need for a worldwide body to discuss and promote nanophotonics.

    The market issues group spent a lot of time discussing the question "What is nanophotonics?" and determining whether certain contemporary technologies are, in fact, nanophotonics already in production. Charts were displayed showing market projections for the next decade, with the areas of lighting, displays, and optical interconnects offering the most near-term development.

    The key barrier to high volume production, the fourth group reported, is cost. Realizing a common process platform is a critical element in growing the market, they said. Research institutions can play a key role now in developing a comprehensive picture of processing options and requirements. The group strongly recommended that precompetitive activities be undertaken to drive standards, including the identification of de facto standards, and focusing on areas where standardization is most likely.

    Wednesday, 24 January

    Fraunhofer researchers demo insect-inspired cyber eye at Photonics West 2007

    Researchers at Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Optik und Feinmechanik (Germany) have developed what is essentially the first artificial compound eye. The compact nature and low power requirements of such a system makes it ideal for applications in machine vision, security, medical imaging and transportation.

    Andreas Bräuer, Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Optik und Feinmechanik (Germany), gave a very interesting presentation on MEMS compatible illumination and imaging micro-optical systems as part of the MOEMS and Miniaturized Systems Conference chaired by David L. Dickensheets, Montana State Univ.-Bozeman; Bishnu P. Gogoi, Evigia Systems, Inc.; and Harald Schenk, Fraunhofer-Institut für Photonische Mikrosysteme (Germany)

    Bräuer and his colleagues have developed what is essentially the first artificial compound eye. The human eye uses a single lens to focus the image on the retina which contains many photoreceptor cells. An insect eye is composed essentially of many eyes, each of which contains its own cornea, lens, and photoreceptor cells. Each photoreceptor cell collects light from a specific and different object direction, and a complete image is produced from this data. While the images captured by such a system are of lower resolution than what would normally be acceptable for a modern digital camera system, the compact nature of such a design has applications in machine vision, security, medical imaging, and transportation.

    Plenary features father of laser, talk on laser-based astrophysics and particle physics

    The LASE Plenary at Photonics West hosted the father of the laser, Nobel laureate Charles Townes, on Wednesday 24 January. Over 560 friends, colleagues, and intellectual relatives of the eminent scientist came to listen to a brief history of the laser from the inventor himself. Townes explained the origins of the first laser (actually a maser), derived from his work on microwave spectroscopy of molecules.

    Clearly, the laser has evolved considerably since 1954, and laser technology is now ubiquitous in modern life. For Townes, this highlighted how the results of basic research can contain immense unexpected benefits. He commented that industry and government politicians need to see that the long-term payoff potential of basic research extends well beyond the next fiscal cycle. Townes also discussed how rapidly the development of the laser progressed once the initial ideas were circulated, showing the overall importance of community to the development of new technology.

    Another theme of Townes's talk was his illustration of how new ideas are often resisted by the acknowledged experts in the field. Townes related how many scientists, among them Niels Bohr and his department chairs at Columbia, thought that the laser was theoretically impossible. Even the Bell Labs patent office refused to entertain a patent on the laser because it lacked a direct application to communications.

    Scientists and representatives of the multi-million dollar laser industry honored Townes with a plaque and a lengthy standing ovation for his work on the laser and contributions to science. When asked what fields might be ripe for a breakthrough like the laser, Townes knowingly answered, "all of them," but identified biophysics, nanotechnology, and negative index of refraction materials as holding special promise.

    Following Townes, Prof. Robert Byer, co-director of the Stanford Photonics Research Center, spoke on the two extremes of laser applications: Astrophysics and Particle Physics. Using the Livingstone plot, a Moore's Law analog, of particle energy vs. time, Byer showed the unabated growth of the laser industry at more than 30 percent a year. In 2006, lasers crossed the $1/watt point, and new records for total power output and frequency stability are being set regularly. Over the years, advances in materials such as the Yb:YAG laser with near unity quantum efficiency, the Nd:YAG laser, and ceramic polycrystals have increased the output power. New pumping geometries such as the non-planar ring and thin discs have also provided significant advances, leading Byer to predict that by 2010 fiber-amplified lasers will reach 100 kW.

    Astrophysical applications of lasers are quite broad, driving the requirement for both more powerful and clean single-frequency lasers. For instance, adaptive optics systems utilize a 50W yellow laser as a guidestar to allow diffraction-limited imaging at near-IR wavelengths with the largest telescopes. The Gemini and Keck telescopes already employ this technology, and the next generation of 30m telescopes will require 7-10 yellow guidestars to provide diffraction-limited images from their complex multiple-mirror systems. A global wind-sensing and measurement system has also been proposed, requiring very narrow line widths, long operational life, and transmitted wavelengths that are eye safe.

    Of all the applications, Byer singled out the attempt to detect gravitational waves from a variety of sources as one of greatest modern scientific challenges involving lasers. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project is designed to detect gravitational waves from the merger of small compact bodies that produce signals at tens of hertz. The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a three-satellite space-based interferometer, will monitor MHz frequencies for the signature of massive black-hole interactions. Both these projects have immense engineering requirements, needing sensitivity to 1 part in 1021. While LISA is still in the design stage, LIGO was installed in 1995 and the Nd:YAG laser at its core has run continuously since then. While it is plausible to detect gravitational waves with the current system, any signals are just at LIGO's designed sensitivity.

    Byer told the audience that with the construction of the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, expected to be online in 2014, researchers "will be doing gravitational wave astronomy" and expect to detect one gravitational wave per week. This new detector, to be installed at the LIGO Hanford Observatories, will replace the present detector once it has reached its goal of a year of observation. The Advanced LIGO, expected to be more sensitive than the initial LIGO by a factor of 10, will transform gravitational wave interferometry into a real observational tool.

    On the other end of the spectrum, the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) has also reaped the benefits of advances in laser technology. Laser Electron Accelerators -- the LEAP project -- are being designed that can fit on the SLAC site. Entering the 1TeV range of accelerations, the challenge is to build an accelerator where photonics components have replaced electronic ones. This is expected to lead to the creation of a laser-driven coherent attosecond X-ray light source.

    Byer continued one of the themes begun by Townes, citing the importance of basic research that has broad application potential, despite seemingly impossible requirements.

    Tuesday, 23 January

    Lasers push into new markets at Photonics West 2007

    Tuesday saw the opening of the Photonics West Exhibition. Over 1,000 exhibiting companies are on hand this year, and the sheer numbers of delegates working the isles and engaging in conversation with vendors is emblematic of the optimism in the photonics industry.

    Aiming to take advantage of the buzz generated by the Photonics West exhibition, which began today and ends on Thursday, a number of companies chose to announce new products and services. The telecom equipment maker Bookham has also, like JDSU, sought expand its customer base following the 2000 Crash, as evidenced by their recent purchase of San Jose-based New Focus. The fact that the company has re-located their corporate headquarters to San Jose, which is shaping up to be a true world power in the laser market, is testament to how widely lasers and other sources have extended their reach into science, medicine and industry.

    Bookham announced 2 vertical cavity surface emitting lasers, or VCSELs, to their product portfolio; a polarization-stable 850nm single-mode VCSEL, and an 850nm high-power VCSEL array. "The unique advantages of VCSEL technology are increasing its attractiveness to new markets and applications," says chief commercial officer Steve Turley. "Bookham has long been a proponent of diversification in the optical component industry and the acquisition of Avalon Photonics has continued this strategy, adding a new chip technology to our already broad chip design."

    The Industry Perspectives Session also begun today at Photonics West. The 3 day session serves as a forum for industry experts to share their views on the opportunities, innovations and applications that impact strategy, planning and implementation. Today's session was taken up by the Executive Panel: Market Direction and Implications for the World of Photonics, in which executives from the larger companies in the optics and photonics space gathered to share their insights with attendees on the trends and opportunities in optics & photonics, including technology R&D, global sales, marketing, manufacturing and innovation.

    Tom Loftus, Aculight, gave a well-attended talk as part of the Fiber Lasers Conference chaired by Donald J. Harter, IMRA America, Inc., and Andreas Tünnermann, Fraunhofer Institut für Angewandte Optik und Feinmechanik (Germany). Titled Slow, fast, and backwards light in an erbium-doped optical fiber, Loftus described the excitement in the military over the prospect of developing combat platforms based on high watt solid state lasers; ray guns, in other words. To this end, Loftus and his colleagues have developed fiber laser systems that produce over 250 watts. Individual fiber lasers can produce higher power, but will run up against the silica damage threshold. This problem can be overcome by combining multiple lasers to reach higher power.

    However, even with this the combined beam does not produce a single mode Gaussian spot in the far field, which until recently still contained a few interference fringes and was restricted to 65% efficiency in the central maximum. Using a dispersive grating to align the combined beams, they have demonstrated a combined laser system with an output of 552 watts, with 100% of the energy in the central spot in the far field.

    Monday, 22 January

    MOEMS and MEMS are the order of the day at Photonics West 2007

    Students from as far away as Russia and Poland joined colleagues from the US and Canada to attend the SPIE Student Chapter Leadership Breakfast. There they networked and shared their ideas and aspirations. SPIE 2007 President-Elect Kevin Harding (standing), GE Global Research, was on hand to thank the students for attending, and to stress the importance of students as the future of the photonics community.

    The MOEMS-MEMS Plenary Sessions kicked off the Symposium on Micro and Nanofabrication this morning. Goran Stemme, Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), began the proceedings by describing the research currently underway by he and his colleagues to build medical devices using MEMS design, processing and assembly. They have been working in this field for nearly 10 years and have seen a number of their research projects gain commercial viability.

    The next generation of devices in R&D will enable minimally invasive techniques for Biopotential monitoring, transdermal drug delivery and blood monitoring. A typical EG monitoring electrode is normally applied to the skin by abrading the skin surface to remove dead cells, and then adding a conduction gel to ensure a good electrical connection to the body. A micromachined device would feature an array of micro-spikes that would penetrate the upper skin and make good electrical connection without the use of traditional electrodes. A patch about 12 mm on a side was developed that contained hundreds of microspikes measuring 160 microns long and roughly 20 microns across. The spikes also contained micro barbs to hold the patch in place. The device worked as well as the original EG electrodes but did not require the gel. A transdermal drug delivery system would operate along the same principals but would use hollow micro-spikes to permit the flow of drugs into the skin.

    The late morning plenary talk focused on diffractive optics. Larry Hornbeck, Texas Instruments, gave a presentation on the history of TI's micromirror technology development -- once dubbed by famed PC Magazine columnist John Dvorak as the "weirdest technology ever invented." Hornbeck took exception to this, pointing out that it is possibly not nearly as weird as other bizarre technologies, such as the mechanical television. He then discussed in great detail how TI took a bleak, floundering DMD business to make TI the powerhouse it is today in digital cinema -- beginning with the first feature film presented digitally: Star Wars, Episode I, and expanding to about 3000 cinemas nationwide.

    Olav Solgaard, Stanford University, then gave a detailed presentation on diffractive optical modulators based on MEMS technology. Taking advantage of the unique strengths of MEMS features. Solgaard showed that optical MEMS devices that use arrays of microactuated reflectors could manipulate the phase of an incident optical field. He showed that this in combination with diffraction allows the creation of many devices, such as grating light modulators (GLM), fiber-optic voltage-controlled attenuators, GLM sensors, and tunable optical filters. Dr. Solgaard discussed in depth these devices' operational principals and fabrication processes, and presented predictions for future applications.

    Sunday, 21 January

    Biomedical optics take center stage at Photonics West 2007

    Sunday saw the close of the Photonics West 2007 Biomedical Optics Exhibition. Judging from the crowds on the show floor and the number of business cards changing hands, it was a very successful exhibition indeed. One gets the sense that biomedical optics is starting to receive the kind of frenzied attention that optical networking received in the late 1990s.

    It should come as no surprise, then, that companies like JDSU have made aggressive forays into the biomedical optics space in recent years, most recently with their rollout of a new line of fluorescence filters for use in a number of biomedical instruments at the Photonics West 2007 Biomedical Optics Exhibition.

    James Wyant, Univ. or Arizona, at the helm of his popular course on modern optical testing, which covers the basic interferometric techniques used in the evaluation of optical components and systems.

    The Photonics West Professional Development Program began in earnest today with a broad spectrum of courses being offered in optical coherence tomography, the fabrication and use of biochips, fluorescent sensing and diagnostics, tissue optics, optical system design and many other topics. Courses offered as part of the SPIE Professional Development program are taught by working scientists and engineers and are designed for those who work in production and sales environments to gain a fundamental understanding of a given optics- or photonics-related application, method or technology.

    The theme of multiphoton microscopy was continued in the talks featured in the Multiphoton Microscopy in the Biomedical Sciences Conference chaired by Ammasi Periasamy, Univ. of Virginia and Peter T. C. So, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    Ji-xin Cheng, Purdue, gave an interesting talk titled Driving CARS into the biological field (pun presumably intended) in which he outlined the challenges of performing Endoscopic Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Spectroscopy (CARS). The main challenge has been to facilitate delivery of the excitation beam at the probe tip, collection of the return signal and then understanding the resulting image. Last year Cheng discussed the development of a Vanadate laser source, and now Cheng and his colleagues are poised to do CARS imaging through a fiber. However, they still face substantial challenges, such as focusing the light that is backscattered from the sample target. To mitigate this problem, Cheng and his team had to design and develop a new delivery and collection fiber that incorporates a single mode delivery fiber and multiple multimode collection fibers.

    Dvir Yelin, Mass General, gave a talk titled Three-dimensional miniature endoscopy through a single fiber via spectral encoding that covered the engineering challenges of building the type of endoscopic CARS instrument described in J-xin Cheng's research. The Piezo (PZT) scanning mechanism at the heart of the system is deposited as strips of PZT material on the fiber bundle. When these strips are electrically activated the fiber bends. Through sinusoidal activation of the strips, the fiber can be made to spin in a circular or spiraling motion depending on the voltage amplitude. While this method possesses certain packaging advantages, it does not deliver the level of uniform illumination that the MEMS mirror approach to scanning currently does, though the power requirements of the MEMS approach complicates the design of the system.

    Saturday, 20 January
    Photonics West opens amid optimism in the photonics industry

    Photonics West 2007 opened today amid a number of photonics-related advances, both commercially and in development, that are creating a great deal of excitement. Indeed, five years ago, the notion that enabling technologies like silicon photonics, biosensors, tunable fiber lasers, quantum-dot fluorophores, and plasmon-enhanced photonics were, or would soon be, commercially available, would have been consigned to the realm of science fiction.

    A quick assessment of the 75 conferences, 75 courses, 1,000 exhibitors and other special events and workshops that make up Photonics West, have always been a good indicator, however, or how science fiction has a way of becoming science fact. The event is organized around four symposia: Biomedical Optics (BiOS), Lasers and Applications in Science and Engineering (LASE), Integrated Optoelectronic Devices, and Micro and Nanofabrication (MOEMS-MEMS). The Biomedical Optics Exhibition is held on Saturday and Sunday, and the larger Photonics West Exhibition begins Tuesday and ends onThursday. Together it all adds up to the largest and most relevant photonics science and applications event in the world.

    Photonics West BiOS Hot Topics Sessions play to a packed house. The popular Hot Topics session gives participants the opportunity to discuss their optics- and photonics-based imaging and therapeutic research with attendees.

    Proceedings officially got underway with the opening of Biomedical Optics Symposium. Biomedical applications represent one of the most exciting research and commercial growth areas for photonics. Exciting imaging and therapeutic applications using novel forms of spectroscopy and tomography and more powerful, miniaturized, and tunable sources have revolutionized the use of optics and photonics in the clinical and diagnostic spheres.

    Optical Methods for Tumor Treatment and Detection Conference Chair David Kessel, Wayne State Univ., gave an interesting talk on Photodynamic therapy (PDT) death pathways. PDT is being considered for use in the treatment of carcinomas and sarcomas. This therapy would involve the creation of photosensitizers designed to bond to particular tumor cells, followed by irradiation with light of a particular wavelength, thereby initiating tumor necrosis.

    Kessel touched on 3 mechanisms under consideration by researchers. Necrosis, known to be a highly reactive process that can cause death to neighboring cells and local swelling; apoptosis, which involves the destruction of the DNA in the cell; and the stimulation of the autophagic response, which causes the proteins in cells to degrade.

    The first day of Photonics West closed with the BiOS Hot Topics sessions. One of the most popular special events at Photonics West, these sessions give invited speakers the opportunity to describe their R&D work in photonic-based imaging, clinical and diagnostic tools.

    Biomedical Optics Symposium co-chair James Fujimoto, MIT, gave his introductory remarks to a packed auditorium, followed by the presentation of a lifetime achievement award to Ashley J. Welch, Univ. of Texas/Austin, by Biomedical Optics Symposium co-chair Richard Anderson for his pioneering work on optical and thermal response of tissue to laser radiation. This year's Hot Topics Session was moderated by Sergio Fantini, Tufts Univ., and covered a number of interesting topics. Many of the discussions involved using IR and near IR imaging to optimize drug delivery and treatment.

    Thomas M. Baer, Stanford Photonics Research Ctr., raised the question of how optical imaging can be used to assist in the measurement of drug response. The question is not necessarily one of resolution but of measurement of critical parameters that can help the physician determine if a treatment is working. Eva-Marie Sevick-Muraca, Baylor College of Medicine, spoke of her work in IR fluorescence imaging as a promising approach for seeing the response of the body to drug applications in vivo. Her group has demonstrated lymph imaging 3 cm deep in animal subjects using NIR FL techniques. Both of these methods could allow clinicians to monitor the flow and effect of therapeutic drugs to targeted areas.

    Christopher H. Contag, Stanford Univ., discussed the need to develop targeted cancer therapies that have immunity to cancer cells. A number of optical imaging modalities are used to monitor this research, and a dual axis scanning MEMS mirror endoscope for in vivo imaging is being developed to assist in monitoring targeted therapies. Joseph A. Izatt, Duke Univ., covered recent developments in Fourier domain Optical Coherence Tomography. Utilizing spectrally resolved OCT-made possible by advances in mode locked fiber laser sources- enables novel procedures like volumetric imaging and imaging of blood flow. Xiaoliang Sunney Xie, Harvard Univ., extolled the benefits of Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Spectroscopy (CARS). These benefits include excellent spatial resolution and non-invasive application. New developments laser sources also promise to enable CARS imaging at much higher resolutions. Min Gu, Swinburne Univ. of Technology, spoke of applying multiphoton imaging, a nonlinear optical process, through and endoscopic system for internal imaging.