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SPIE Professional January 2015

Fertile ground for photonics

Success of China’s Optics Valley the result of infrastructure and government support for the photonics industry

By Rich Donnelly

Optics Valley logoAs the premier spot for optics and photonics development in China, the Optics Valley in Wuhan illustrates the benefits of a coordinated effort, from education and research to commercialization.

With the 1994 establishment of a national research center for optical telecommunications engineering, the development of Wuhan’s photonics infrastructure was underway. Wuhan has a long history as an industrial and commercial hub, and is the communications center for the seven provinces in southern China.

In 2001, the Wuhan city government launched the “Optics Valley of China” (OVC) within the boundaries of the Wuhan East Lake High-Tech Development Zone. The following year, both the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Development and Reform Commission of China certified and approved the OVC as China’s optoelectronic and information industry base.

This 132-km area encompasses most of the city’s universities and technology companies and is the core of Wuhan’s production of optical fiber and cable, optoelectronic components, optical transmission equipment, and optical instruments.

From past to future in Wuhan photonics industry

An active SPIE Student Club helps undergraduates and graduate students gain practical skills and connect with the international community.

With its long history in the optoelectronics industry, Wuhan is considered by many to be the cradle of the optoelectronics and telecommunications industry in China, and the institutions that started it are still major players in the field.

Wuhan University, one of the oldest universities in central China, was founded in 1893. Facilities at the university now include four key state-level laboratories, two national engineering research centers, and two national field research centers.

Started as the Huazhong Institute of Technology in 1953, the Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) in Wuhan has a student population of nearly 40,000 undergraduates (including 2000 in optics-related studies), 20,000 postgraduates, and more than 3000 academic staff. HUST is home to the Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics (WNLO), one of five national laboratories in China.

WNLO was founded in 2003, and conducts research in optoelectronic devices and photonic integration; nanophotonics and MEMS; communication and intelligent networks; biomedical photonics; data storage systems; and laser science and technology.

WNLO and a related enterprise called Wuhan Industrial Institute for Optoelectronics (WIIO), will be exhibiting at Photonics West 2015. WIIO is an “innovation platform” aiming to support and promote optoelectronic developments during the R&D and test stages, and to incubate new enterprises.

SPIE supports WNLO in its development of the International Conference on Photonics and Imaging in Biology and Medicine, held each June in Wuhan. With a history dating back to 1999, this event has become one of the largest biomedical photonics conferences in Asia, according to the organizers.

Wuhan is also home to a large amount of R&D investment, with particular emphasis on biomedical optics and life sciences. The government plans to build two new developments – dubbed “Biolake” and “Future City” — to create a supportive environment for commercialization of research, incubate new businesses, attract both foreign investment and individual Chinese researchers who have gained international experience, and launch new businesses based in Wuhan.

Qingming Luo and the establishment of new institute

SPIE Fellow Qingming LuoIn February 1997, after spending two years in the world-renowned laboratory of Britton Chance at  University of Pennsylvania, SPIE Fellow Qingming Luo (right) returned to Huazhong University of Science and Technology to form the Institute for Biomedical Photonics. Now known as the Britton Chance Center for Biomedical Photonics (BCCBMP) and home to many top researchers and a well-equipped laboratory, the center is one of the top locations for biophotonics R&D in China.

According to Luo, BCCBMP’s specialties include optical neuroimaging, molecular imaging, imaging systems for small animals, laser speckle imaging, optical coherence tomography, and photoacoustic tomography.

“Dr. Chance taught me a lot,” says Luo, who chairs the annual meurophotonics conference at SPIE Photonics West. “He was very, very patient in training people.”

Chance made important contributions in the identification and functioning of enzyme-substrate compounds, as well as advancements in breast-cancer diagnostics, spectroscopy as a noninvasive analytical tool for clinical diagnosis, and other areas.

Following Chance's death in 2010, SPIE established the Britton Chance Biomedical Optics Award.

DOI: 10.1117/2.4201501.08

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