Report from Laser Munich
I was at Laser Munich last week, again. And, again, it seemed that Europe is continuing to emerge as a hotbed for optics. Laser Munich makes other similar conferences in the U.S. look, to be generous, anemic. I consider this good; it seems to be reinvigorating the field (at least for us classical optics types). I only made it to half of the exhibits and 1/5 of the posters, but, in that I saw many things of interest. As always, things seem to be going towards faster (femto is becoming atto), smaller (nano is almost a standard), and more complex (freeform is everywhere, even if we cannot measure it).
The Synopsys spread at Laser Munich. There was a definitive “race for the top” (e.g. ceiling), which it appears that we won. A nice touch came at the end of the day when some key vendors, including Melles Griot, conveniently next door, would bring in cases of German beer and one evening a vendor even brought bratwurst for dinner (perhaps unfortunately for them, I never figured out who the vendor was, unless it was the conference itself).
There were two major technical conferences of interest to me (this is where EOS, SPIE, and OSA all sponsor technical conferences). The first was the EOS conference on Manufacturing of Components in combination with the SPIE conference on Metrology. Here, some of the latest thinking in how to manufacture and measure (still unsolved) freeform surfaces was at the center of the discussion.
The other conference was, as was the case two years ago, the OSA/SPIE conference on OCT (optical coherence tomography). This year was as excellent as the last, with one of the fastest overviews of 20 years of technology I’ve ever seen, presented by Prof. Drexler and an excellent tutorial by the founder of the field, Prof. Fujimoto. To me, this is one of the most interesting cases of combining a shopping list of the courses that are taught in graduate school and from that emerges a technology. It uses interferometry (white light Michelson), exotic sources (femto lasers, super continuum, super luminous diodes (I wonder what will be the adjective after “super”, ultra perhaps? – we’ll see), high resolution spectrometers, Fourier transforms, and a lot of tricks, developed over 20 years to create, recently, images of layers under the skin.
While OCT is aimed at axial (1-D) resolution for application to the eye, OCM (optical coherence Microscopy) is directed at collecting images in 3D of cells under the skin. The University of Rochester is the first to develop subcelluar 3D microscopy, biopsy level images in a configuration that can move to the clinic. The latest image, acquired last week in the latest configuration, is shown below. This technology has one of the fastest growth curves ever seen and demonstrates that exponential growth in technology is continuing to sprout up all around us. In optometry, the first clinical use was 2002, and since then it has grown to approaching 10 million procedures, at $48/each. This would make a nice topic for Harvard Business Review. One of the UofR recent images, which represents the state of the art, is included below, courtesy of Prof. Jannick Rolland, the Brian Thompson Chair Professor of Optical Engineering at the Institute of Optics. These images are created through the application of optical engineering to advance complex ideas in science, an ongoing theme.
No scalpel was involved in acquiring these images of cellular structure under the skin. Article currently posted in pending publication in Optics Letters.