The best of Optical and Photonics Technology gathered in San Francisco (CA)
PHOTONICS WEST 2020
REGNER® EDITORIAL TEAM
SPIE Photonics West is the world’s largest photonics technology event.It is the symposium where researchers, scientists and professionals share their advances, show new opportunities and exhibit their new products and services.
This year’s event was attended by more than 20,000 people who filled the Moscone Center in San Francisco from 1 February to 6 February. It also brought together 1,300 exhibitors who displayed their solutions and there were many associated industry events.
Among the events, we should highlight the SPIE Startup Challenge. This competition was held over several days to help new companies in the sector refine their business cases, analyse markets and develop a network of connections to boost their launch. The competitors, while participating in the different qualification rounds, benefited from the advice of the experts.
This year the winner of the challenge was Avenda Health, which presented a sophisticated laser ablation system designed for prostate cancer patients. The system uses artificial intelligenceto guide the laser to target only the tumour. This new system shortens the procedure and the recovery time while moving treatment from an expensive operating room to a doctor’s surgery.
“We’ve had analogue, we’ve now got digital and quantum is next.”
Founder and CEO of M Squared
An accurate summary of this week’s event was provided by Graeme Malcolm, Founder and CEO of M Squared. Malcolm said that many areas supported by photonics are really starting to emerge ranging from life sciences to chemical detection and quantum. This Scottish scientist wanted to stress that this is a really exciting time for the photonics industry. As he always asserts, there was analogue technology first, we are now in the digital technology phase and quantum technology is next.
FROM ELECTRONICS TO PHOTONICS
Just as the 20th century depended on the electron for progress, the 21st century relies on the photon to drive many advances in different fields. Photonics is based on a simple but innovative idea: replace electrons by photons. All devices must switch from using electrical signals to having their microprocessors run on light – because photonics is the natural successor to electronics.
Its scope is already extensive. It is present in the digital camera and the smartphone screen. Moreover, voice and data sent by phone are transformed into pulses of light to travel through a network of underground optical fibres. Light is certainly the fastest, most reliable and efficient means of sending information.
Likewise, light technologies continue to evolve. LEDs are used in traffic lights, car headlights and homes; they also have the ability to turn on and off in very short times, imperceptible to human sight, which – in a few years – will allow lighting systems to provide us with light and Internet connection at the same time.
Light carries energy and can transmit information, which makes its possible applications innumerable. Its energy can be transformed into electricity by solar panels or it can be used to cut various materials with unparalleled speed and quality. With light, you can measurelengths, temperature, deformations, the three-dimensional shape of objects, and many other variables with unparalleled accuracy and in a non-invasive way. Therefore, it is used to explore the Universe, to detect the presence of contaminants or to verify the toxicity of certain substances.
In the field of medicine, light is used to correct vision problems, to destroy tumours in a less invasive and painful way, todiagnose diseases from very early stages and to offer more effective therapiesthat destroy diseased tissue, without damaging healthy tissue.
Other applications are already being transformed by this technology: artificial intelligence, climate modelling, drug design, financial services, 3D mapping. The list keeps growing and many innovations are still to come. In the near future we will say goodbye to electronics as we know it and welcome photonics.