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    21 - 26 January 2006
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    Photonics West 2006 Draws Record Number of Attendees
    Thursday, 26 January

    Photonics West 2006 finally wrapped up this afternoon, and, with the record number of delegates on hand, the mood among delegates and staffers was ebullient. "The numbers are up from last year," exclaimed SPIE's Marilyn Gorsuch, event manager for Photonics West "Exhibitors are expressing satisfaction with the results in general; lots of conferences filled their rooms and spilled into the hallways at times; the plenary sessions were jammed; and the industry forums were very well received." SPIE meeting planners estimate that over 16,000 delegates registered to attend Photonics West this year, an eight percent increase over last year's count.

    While the last day of tradeshows see the traffic taper off as delegates scramble to make their flights, the conferences at Photonics West today were still drawing large numbers of meeting delegates well into the morning. Many of the sessions in the "Nonlinear Optics" conference, for example, were heavily attended. One paper that generated quite a bit of interest was a presentation on supercontinuum in silica nanowires by Eric Mazur, Harvard University, one of the world's foremost authorities in the use and construction of silica nanowires

    Supercontinuum sources are of interest for their value in a number of areas, such as component measurement, interferometry and spectroscopy. Supercontinuum sources act in much the same way as laser sources do in that they both generate very bright light with a high degree of spatial coherence. Unlike laser light, however, supercontinuum light covers a very broad spectrum, and its high degree of spatial coherence allows the light from such a source to be focused to a small spot. Mazur also discussed the use of true nanowires drawn from silica optical fiber to very small diameters (down to 50 nm), and presented a collection of analysis and data from a series of experiments conducted to determine the optimum size for the silica nanowires in question. Such fibers possess atomic level smoothness and allow single-mode operation with very low optical losses within the visible to near-infrared spectral range.

    "These wires are very sensitive to the environment and are excellent candidates for chemical and biological sensors. Also, when combined with other devices such as nanoscale lasers, the wires may provide opportunities for a variety of applications ranging from optical communications to microsurgery."

    Wednesday, 25 January 2006

    Silicon photonics, an emerging technology that has the potential to usher in unheard of levels of circuit density on microchips by replacing electronics with photonics, has generated great interest at Photonics West this year. Cary Gunn, Luxtera Corp, gave an interesting and well-attended talk on a new production process he and his colleagues have implemented that enable them to build, for example, chip-based modulators using silicon CMOS that can operate at thru puts of up to 10 Gbs.

    The crux of the innovations Gunn and colleagues have brought to bear lie in their integration of the CMOS electronics with optical waveguides at the mirco level, owing to the ability to make waveguides from silicon, which has a very high index and so allows for previously unattainable levels of miniaturization. Waveguides are used to route and direct photons much like copper is used to route and direct electrons.

    Using Vertical Cavity Lasers (VCSELs) bound on top of diffractive lenses to shunt the laser light into silicon waveguides, combined with the integration of a holographic diffraction lens to couple fiber to the surface normal of the chip, Gunn's group have been able to overcome the high coupling losses that would result from integrating chips possessing such highly miniaturized waveguides with other non siliconized components.

    Delegates attending Wednesday morning's Market Seminars were treated to a first-of-a-kind executive panel session, in which Giorgio Anania, President and CEO, Bookham, Lynn Strickland, VP of Marketing and Strategic Development, MellesGriot, John Stack, President and COO, Edmund Optics, Gary Spiegel, VP of Sales and Service, Newport, Ken Kaufmann, Director of New Technology Development, Hamamatsu, and Paul Meissner, Executive VP of Global Business Operations, Coherent, joined together in free-wheeling 90 minute panel session moderated by VC Steve Eglash, Senior Associate of Worldview Venture Partners.

    Executives reviewed various strategies for success, and differences quickly emerged. For example, some executives emphasized the importance high levels of automation and low labor rates, while others felt the only way to compete was to provide "end to end" product or service integration to customers. Still others felt high performance or quick time to market provided the best means to differentiate themselves from competitors. Everyone agreed that none of the above could ever be achieved simultaneously.

    Tuesday, 24 January 2006

    Tuesday saw the opening of the Photonics West 2006 Exhibition. With the new 80,000 square foot South Hall coming online this year -purpose-built to accommodate the growth of Photonics West specifically---the Exhibition has ballooned to over 1,000 exhibitors, a significant increase over last year's count.

    The number of companies announcing new lasers, sensing and imaging components and applications at Photonics West once again put proof to the pudding that these technologies still make up the vast majority of applications featured by exhibiting companies here.

    Attendees pore over a product catalogue at the Ocean Optics booth during Photonics West. A Centice Corporation-branded Raman spectrometer can be seen in the foreground, signaling a freshly inked distribution agreement just announced here by the two sensor firms. "Photonics West continues to grow," noted Ocean Optics' Beth Weinstein. "We've have wonderful traffic and there's a general feeling of success on the exhibit floor. We've been able to have meaningful conversations with an audience who understands and can utilize our applications."

    San Jose-based JDSU announced an innovative laser-based power delivery system. Called Photonic Power, light from a laser source illuminates a photovoltaic power converter to produce electrical power, replacing copper and batteries for remote sensors, coaxial cable in wireless applications, and oil or gas-filled measurement transformers in high voltage applications.

    Durham, North Carolina-based Centice Corp, a pioneer in the emerging technology of computational sensing, and Florida-based Ocean Optics, a supplier of optical sensing systems for OEM markets, development, and research, announced an agreement under which Ocean Optics will distribute co-branded MMS-based Raman spectrometer systems, thus fleshing out its portfolio of spectroscopy products.

    A series of market seminars that were held as part of the Market Seminars: analysis, insight and ideas for business program, which began today and runs through Thursday, opened this morning with a fascinating presentation by Marc Lurie and Eric Drexler, Foresight Institute, outlining what they see as a realistically sustainable roadmap for developing nano-scale optical systems and devices.

    SPIE's series of market seminars, held at all of SPIE's larger meetings, feature executives from many of the larger companies who regularly exhibit at SPIE's events. These seminars provide attendees with the kind of market research and analysis crucial for bringing the many technical innovations described in the conference sessions to market.

    Monday, 23 January 2006

    The MOEMS/MEMS Symposium began this morning with the MOEMS/MEMS Plenary Session. Chaired by Rajeshuni Ramesham, Jet Propulsion Lab., Albert K. Henning, Redwood Microsystems, Inc., and M. Edward Motamedi, Revoltech Microsystems., this symposium featured much of the cutting edge work being undertaken to construct and apply MicroOptoElectroMechanical (MOEM) and MicroElectroMechanical (MEM) systems and devices.

    In his plenary address, George Whitesides, Harvard University, outlined the history of microfluidic devices and systems from their inception in the early 1980's, their evolution over time, and their future potential applications. Originally, Whitesides stated, it was felt that MEMS would be the enabling technology of choice for microfluidic devices. However, over time, as it was realized that microfluidic devices were best suited for use in medical diagnostics as biosensors, and low cost and large economies of scale became the driving issue in their production, they came to be made primarily of plastic.

    It has been the low cost production of these devices that has enabled research into their potential uses and further development to flourish. This renaissance has led to exotic enabling technologies such as opto fluidics, where all components of a particular device are made from liquids, including the light sources, lasers, waveguides and light management components. The motivation for making devices out of fluidic materials is that they are very adaptable, dynamic and promise to revolutionize the study of biology. Other developments in fluidic optics include adaptive lenses in which the lens is made from a liquid trapped between two membranes and the lens is adjusted through the application of pressure on the membranes.

    However, for biological applications the focus has been on designing lab-on-a-chip type devices that employ opto fluidics to provide diagnostic capability. A number of opto-fluidic devices have been demonstrated. These include evanescent couplers, beam splitters, 3-way switches and tapered light transition elements. Light sources have also been demonstrated by inserting fluorescent dyes in the fluid and optically pumping the flow. To create wide optical bandwidth sources multiple dyes are used to produce several colored sources that can be mixed to give the desired spectrum. Lasers can also be created this way by building micro-cavities that the fluid flows into and placing mirrors at the ends of these cavities to recirculate the light, while the fluid enters and exits the cavity through very sharply bent channels. Stimulated emission is generated through optically pumping the fluid source and lasing begins once the gain has exceeded the losses of the cavity.

    Sunday, 22 January 2006

    While the BiOS Symposium presentations will continue into Thursday, Sunday saw the end of the large bulk of presentations. Tayyaba Hasan, Massachusetts General Hospital, spoke of research being undertaken by her and colleagues at NIH to extend the practice of photodynamic therapy (PDT), to mitigate, for example, the effects of diseases such as age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), one of the leading causes of blindness in the elderly. AMD is caused by vessels that grow in the eye either above the photoreceptors (and thereby block vision) or below the photoreceptor level (thereby distorting the layer and vision). These neovessels can be destroyed while the PS is present in the vessel and the light dose is administered.

    PDT is typically used to treat tumorous growths by employing photons to stimulate a photosensitizer (PS) to an excited state, which in turn reacts with oxygen to produce a very reactive oxygen ion. This starves the associated tumor of needed oxygen and eventually kills it. PDT, Hassan pointed out, has been applied to tumors of many different organs, including skin, lungs, bladder, brain and uterus. What is needed is a means to measure in-vivo so the dose can be started and stopped at the right times. After the PS has entered the tumor and after the tumor has been destroyed. PDT is not only used to treat tumors.

    One other area that PDT has been very successful is in treating Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). AMD is a large cause of blindness in the elderly. It is caused by vessels that grow in the eye either above the photoreceptors (and thereby block vision) or below the photoreceptor level (and thereby distort the layer and vision). These neovessels can be destroyed while the PS is present in the vessel and the light dose is administered.

    Other PDT treatments for other diseases are still waiting FDA approval. PDT could be very effective for treating some infectious diseases like tuberculosis of the upper lung. Here a fiber optic catheter can be used to deliver the light to the diseased region. But a method is needed to be able to tell when the PS has entered the disease region and when then to turn the light on. To this end, Hassan also elaborated on research on the development of photosensitizers that also create some fluorescence so that they can be tracked and monitored as they progress through the body.

    Delegates attend the BiOS Exhibition at Photonics West. With a record number of exhibiting companies and attendees on hand, meeting organizers estimate that the Photonics West Biomedical Optics Symposium and Exhibition has become the largest biomedical optics event in the world.

    One of the highlights of the very well attended Sunday morning session on the "Characterization of Nanocrystals for Biomedical Applications" session chaired by Moungi Banwendi, MIT, was his presentation about the potential advantages of using quantum rods, or q rods, instead of quantum dots for biological probes. Q rods have, by the nature of their shape, much larger absorption cross sections, possess faster exciton radiation rates, and produce linearly polarized light when excited. Banwendi described how q rods can be made water soluble through a process of surface salinization.

    This process produces a fully cross linked surface that is stable and passive. It uses well known chemistry and is bio compatible. The resultant rods are optically transparent, but they can be functionalized and doped with internal absorbers. The study compared the toxicity of quantum rods to that of quantum dots in the area of cadmium leakage. It was found that the q rods had a leakage rate one third that of similar q dots. This is attributed to an increased resistance to oxidation due to a lack of surface curvature for the rods as compared to the q dots. Furthermore, q rods can be functionalized for specific labeling, imaging and, detection. Their larger cross section makes them more sensitive imaging agents and the linearized output assists in separating their signal from the background.

    Saturday, 21 January 2006

    With record numbers of exhibitors and pre-registered attendees signed, a great deal of excitement surrounded the opening of Photonics West in San Jose this year. Proceedings got underway as usual with the opening of the Biomedical Optics Symposium, chaired again this year by James Fujimoto, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and R. Rox Anderson, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard School of Medicine. According to meeting organizers, record numbers of attendees have registered, making it the largest biomedical optics event in the world.

    New advances in biomedical sensors have figured heavily in current biomedical research. Phillipe Fauchet, University of Rochester, and his colleagues have developed a technology platform for biomedical sensing applications that uses a multi layer thin film reflection coating fabricated from porous silicon. The silicon structure is processed to produce alternating layers of high and low index to create a reflection coating with a sharp zero reflectance notch at a central wavelength, and fabricated by etching channels through the silicon that have a width that alternates between wide and narrow. These alternating layers then have the required modulated indexes to produce the reflection coating. The pore sizes varies from 2 - 300 nm and they produce an index modulation of a factor of 2.

    The small size porous regions can trap short DNA strands, while the large size regions can handle viruses or bacteria. Through further post processing, these pores can be functionalized to create binding sites that are specific to the type of molecule being tested. When the molecules are trapped, the index of that layer of the film is changed, which causes a shift in the wavelength value of the location of the reflection notch. Simulations seem to indicate, Fauchet revealed, that in principle, such sensors could detect a 1 Angstrom coating or about 15 pico grams of material.

    Delegates at the Photonics West 2006 BiOS Exhibition speak with rep. from Phoenix, Arizona-based Polymicro Technologies. Polymicro manufacture silica capillary tubing and specialty optical fibers, optical fiber and capillary assemblies, discrete micro components and quartz optical fiber ferrules for use in bio sensor arrays.

    The Biomedical Optics Exhibition also opened today. This exhibition serves as a forum for companies designing and manufacturing the latest biomedical devices, components and associated services to interact with current and prospective customers. With the number of exhibiting companies up a whopping 50% over last year and the floor chock-a-block with attendees, the excitement was palpable, reflecting the explosive growth in the market for biomedical optics. The exhibitors on hand vend a diverse range of products and services, and range from boutique consulting and software firms like Tucson, Arizona-based Breault Research and Associates to global, publicly traded corporations like Santa Clara, California-based Coherent Incorporated.