Optics, photonics potential on display at conference

September 24, 2015 - By Kevin Robinson-Avila, Albuquerque Journal

The immense potential of emerging optics and photonics technologies will be on display at a free conference on Friday organized by the University of New Mexico.

The conference, which will celebrate the United Nations' proclamation of 2015 as the International Year of Light-based Technologies, will feature panel discussions and presentations by local and national leaders, including a keynote speech by Harvard professor Roy Glauber, who shared the Nobel prize for physics in 2005.

The conference aims to strengthen academic and industry collaboration in developing and deploying optics and photonics technologies, said Earl Fuller, special assistant to the director of UNM’s Center for High Technology Materials, which jointly organized the conference with the School of Engineering's Optical Science and Engineering program.

UNM lost its bid this year to become part of a federally-backed "center of excellence" for integrated photonics manufacturing headed by the University of Southern California. In July, the federal government instead chose a multi-state team headed by the State University of New York, which will now receive $110 million in matching funds from the U.S. Department of Defense to establish a manufacturing hub.

But UNM wants to build on the momentum generated by the federal competition to promote more research and development here.

"New Mexico remains a center of excellence in photonics, and UNM has a long history of accomplishments in this area," Fuller said. "We want to continue building collaboration and partnerships with the national laboratories, universities and industry to create a Southwest regional hub."

Such partnerships have already helped make New Mexico a hotbed for technology breakthroughs in things like superfast laser communications, light-based medical diagnostics and treatment, energy efficient lighting and laser defense systems.

The conference, which includes free breakfast and lunch, will be held at UNM's Student Union Building from 7:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Participants are encouraged to pre-register at http://www.optics.unm.edu/nmiyl2015.html.