March 2015


Charles Townes: a 'giant of a friend'

Nobel laureate and inventor of the maser, Charles Townes, who died on 27 January at the age of 99, was an inspiration and a ‘giant of a friend’, SPIE CEO Dr Eugene Arthurs has said at Photonics West. Arthurs paid tribute to the late laser pioneer, during the Lase plenary session at the laser and photonics conference on 11 February in San Francisco.


Sporting smart clothing

Miniature optical sensors are set to permeate most aspects of our lives, from the cars we drive to monitoring our health. If you want to know the chemical composition of the food you’re about to eat, the smartphones of the future will contain sensing technology to tell you.


Taking the lab into the field

Taking spectroscopy out of the laboratory is possible with modern portable systems, but the technology is now moving to include newer techniques like laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). At Photonics West in February, Stellarnet unveiled three new portable devices: a Raman, a near infrared, and a LIBS system.


Beam me down

Since Nasa first ventured into space, it has relied on radio frequency (RF) communication to transmit data to and from space. ‘But why isn’t that good enough now?’ asked Donald Cornwell, head of Nasa’s Space Communications and Navigation Programme, at the Lase plenary session at Photonics West. The laser, photonics, and biomedical optics conference and exhibition took place in San Francisco from 10-12 February.


Gender equality in photonics?

At the Women in Optics panel discussion, which took place on 9 February at Photonics West, it was noted that the number of female optics and photonics professionals holding SPIE membership as of 2014 stood at 3,000, representing 16 per cent of the total membership – this has grown from four per cent in 1998 when the SPIE Women in Optics group was launched.

Although the figures show a rise in the number of females, with just one in six women holding membership, it suggests that they are still greatly outnumbered in the optics and photonics field.