December 2014/January 2015

FEATURE

Data transmission above Vienna

Scientists at the University of Vienna, Austria, have transmitted light signals with different spatial modes 3km across the sky above the city. The experiments show that encoding information in the spatial phase distribution of a photon, known as the orbital angular momentum (OAM), can survive when transmitted through a turbulent atmosphere, which extends the potential uses of encoding data in this way to areas like satellite and quantum communication, for instance.

FEATURE

Compensating for pulsed lasers

Optics for ultrafast lasers operating in the picosecond or femtosecond regime must be relatively specialised in order to control such short pulses. The Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) Beamlines facility that’s currently under construction in the Czech Republic will deliver 10PW of peak power and pulse durations of around 15fs when it is completed in 2017.

FEATURE

Handling the heat

The global laser diode market was estimated at $4.6 billion in 2013 but this value is expected to have more than doubled to $10.26 billion in 2020, according to a report published at the end of October 2014 by Transparency Market Research. Laser diodes are currently used for a variety of purposes including direct diode welding or operating as pump sources for disk and fibre lasers – and the number of uses keeps growing. New trends include additive manufacturing and hardening; potential future applications are welding of composite materials such as carbon fibre reinforced plastics.

FEATURE

Beauty illuminated

Light-based technologies are used widely in the cosmetics industry, from skin rejuvenation and anti-ageing procedures, to the treatment of vascular lesions and tattoo removal. However, as devices are becoming cheaper and more widely available, there is concern within the industry about the improper use of machines containing lasers or intense light sources. The concern will be a topic for a summit being held on the 9 December in London by Health Education England, which is working towards creating a formal qualification for users of light-based technologies in the cosmetics industry.

FEATURE

Photonics IP protected?

Why have intellectual property? This is a perfectly reasonable question concerning the commercialisation of photonic innovations, and in particular innovations arising from collaborations between universities and industrial partners. So what are the uses, roles and limitations of intellectual property (IP) in university-industry collaborations?

FEATURE

A year to remember

The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015) is a global initiative that will highlight the importance of light and optical technologies for the development of society. It will raise awareness of how photonics promotes sustainable development and provides solutions to challenges in areas such as energy, education, communications, health and sustainability.