Challenges Faced by Optics

Optics is the branch of physics that deals with visible light and other electromagnetic waves. Light has a “dual personality” since it sometimes behaves like a wave and other times like corpuscles or discrete packets of energy called photons. This is known as its “wave-corpuscle duality”. Just as the term electronics was derived from electron, in recent years the term Photonics has been coined from photon. Although the terms optics and photonics are often used indiscriminately, the latter is sometimes used to underline the corpuscular nature of light. The number of devices and systems that operate with light is constantly increasing and the many different fields in which these are used are referred to as “light-based technologies”.

Reflection holograms of the Treasure of Villena made by J. A. Quintana at the University of Alicante (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treasure_of_Villena) Credit: A. Beléndez

Reflection holograms of the Treasure of Villena made by J. A. Quintana at the University of Alicante (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treasure_of_Villena) Credit: A. Beléndez

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Changing lives with light – Helping children with disfiguring birthmarks

It’s hard to imagine but pulses of light can have a huge impact on the quality of life.  Since the development of laser technologies, where light is used to heat a specific tissue and selectively destroy it, light has been used to treat millions children affected by disfiguring birthmarks such as congenital nevi (abnormal collection of pigmented cells) and port-wine stains (abnormal collection of blood vessels).  The reason that light is so effective is that it can destroy only the cells or tissues that are targeted, while leaving the other healthy cells and tissues alone. These treatments are safe, effective and, in the correct hands,  have no permanent side effects. Before selective laser treatments, surgery or radiation therapy were used, in Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia, children were still subjected to an outdated and dangerous treatment – radioactive phosphorus.  A radioactive paste is applied to hemangiomas, which are a common skin growth in baby girls. This causes permanent scars, loss of skin pigment, destruction of hair and other normal skin structures, and an lifelong increase in the risk of skin cancers.  Motivated by the desire to stop this dangerous practice and improve the lives of children, a group of Vietnamese and US  physicians, namely Dr. Hoang Minh of the University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Ho Chi Minh City, Dr. Rox Anderson, Dr. Martin Mihm and Dr. Thanh-Nga Tran of Harvard Medical School, Dr. J. Stuart Nelson of the University of California, Irvine, and Dr. Thuy Phung of Texas Children’s Hospital, came together in 2009 to create the Vietnam Vascular Anomalies Center (Vietnam VAC), a non-profit organization dedicated to the use of light technologies to treat children with disfiguring birthmarks.  Our goal was to create a permanent local clinic with modern laser and medical therapies, and to train physicians in Vietnam in the principles of safe and effective laser practices.

Credits: George Morgan

Credits: George Morgan

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IYL 2015 Events #13 | Week 30 March – 5 April

Find below the activities listed on the IYL 2015 Event Programme starting between 30 March – 5 April. Click on the links for more information on the different activities.

Please note that some last-minute additions to the event programme may not appear here. For an up-to-date overview of IYL 2015 events please visit the IYL 2015 Event Programme.

Sapphire is Changing Mobile Devices for the Better

There has been a lot of talk lately about the adoption of sapphire in mobile electronics since several manufactures have brought to market smartphones as well as smartwatches with sapphire displays. Clearly the interest in sapphire displays is growing, but why is the industry moving towards this material?

Various stages of sapphire as it is prepared for smart watch and cell phone displays. Credit: John Nienhuis Photographer

Various stages of sapphire as it is prepared for smart watch and cell phone displays. Credit: John Nienhuis Photographer

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ALBA – Enlightening Science at the Southwest of Europe

In Spanish, “alba” refers to the first appearance of daylight in the morning. But now, ALBA is something more. ALBA is the only synchrotron light source built in Spain, which is giving service to more than 1,000 researchers every year in the academic and industrial sectors.

Aerial view of the ALBA Synchrotron, located in Cerdanyola del Vallès (Barcelona). Credit: ALBA

Aerial view of the ALBA Synchrotron, located in Cerdanyola del Vallès (Barcelona). Credit: ALBA

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