A synopsis of the symposium

Dr Robert R. Thomson
Institute of Photonics and Quantum Science, Heriot Watt University
 
Photonics is one SUPA’s strengths, with many world-leading groups across SUPA institutes, investigating the full breadth of photonics research – from fundamentals to applications. The latest SU2P annual symposium, held at Edinburgh University on the 4th & 5th of April, further confirmed that that SUPA is at the forefront of photonic research, and here I give a brief personal perspective of some of the highlights.
 
The first day of the of the symposium saw talks on photonic applications, ranging from healthcare to manufacturing. Prof. Jim Harris (Stanford) gave the first of two keynotes, describing the remarkable work at Stanford on the development of potentially revolutionary light activated particle accelerators [1] – which could result in tabletop accelerators, with future applications including X-ray generation for medical therapy and imaging. Prof. Mark Bradley (U. of Edinburgh) gave the the second keynote, which focused on the EPSRC funded PROTEUS project [2] (which I should declare I am involved in). The talk outlined how PROTEUS is developing advanced photonic technologies, such as imaging optical fibres and optically active “smart” chemical probes, which will enable a transformative approach to the bedside diagnosis of respiratory conditions in critically ill patients (Fig. 1). PROTEUS is now half way through its 5-year duration, and is already close to undertaking its first in-man clinical studies. Additional highlights from Day 1 included a talk by Dr Henry Bookey (Fraunhofer UK), on the role that applied photonics is playing in wind energy generation through the development of Doppler LIDAR for wind velocity profile monitoring, and a fascinating talk by Prof. Chris Contag (Stanford Photonics Research Centre), who presented his work on the development of micro-optic components for the minimally invasive detection of cancer [3].
etched multicore optical fibre

 

Figure 1 Electron microscope image of an etched multicore optical fibre, loaded with fluorescent beads for sensing physiology in the lung. (Image by Dr Mike Tanner)
 
The second day started with a keynote talk from Prof. Sheila Rowan (U. of Glasgow), who explained the roles that SUPA and photonic technologies have played in the recently reported detection of gravitational waves by the Advanced LIGO in the US [4]. At its heart, LIGO is a photonic instrument, and Prof. Rowan described the roles that highly stabilised lasers, new optical materials and ultra low-loss mirror coatings have played in enabling the quite remarkable precision of 1 part in 1 billion trillion! Further highlights of Day 2 included a talk by Dr Lucia Caspani (Heriot Watt University), who presented her work on the development of on-chip sources for quantum photonics [5], and an excellent informative talk by Prof. Joseph Kahn (Stanford Photonics Research Centre), who left the audience in little doubt about the merits (or lack of) of using orbital angular momentum modes for increased capacity in spatially multiplexed free space communications [6].
 
In addition to the non-exhaustive symposium highlights mentioned above, the symposium also provided an informal setting for students to present posters on their research  (http://www.su2p.com/Home/Symposium2016/Posters.aspx), and an excellent forum for researchers to widen their network and initiate new collaborations. All in all, I left the 2016 SU2P Annual Symposium with an enhanced appreciation for the outstanding quality and range of world-leading photonics research that is currently being conducted in SUPA institutes and beyond.
 
[1] E. A. Peralta et al, “Demonstration of electron acceleration in a laser-driven dielectric microstructure,” Nature 503, 91 (2013).
[3] E. Garai et al, “A Real-Time Clinical Endoscopic System for Intraluminal, Multiplexed Imaging of Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering Nanoparticles,” PLoS ONE 10(4): e0123185 (2015)
[4] B. P. Abbott et al, “Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 116, 061102 (2016)
[5] C. Reimer et al, “Cross-polarized photon-pair generation and bi-chromatically pumped optical parametric oscillation on a chip,” Nat. Commun. 6, 8236 (2015).
[6] N. Zhao et al, “Capacity limits of spatially multiplexed free-space communication,” Nat. Photon. 9, 822 (2015).