Light-Based Technologies at Work: ‘Seeing’ Through Walls, Monitoring Cancer Treatments and Air Pollution, Preserving Artworks -- and Much More

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Two recent major European conferences co-located in Munich covered applications of light-based technologies ranging from monitoring air pollution and preserving valuable artworks and cultural sites to “seeing” through walls and 3D imaging of tissue. SPIE Optical Metrology and the SPIE/OSA European Conferences on Biomedical Optics highlights included talks by Nobel Laureates and other research leaders in optics and photonics.

Ramesh Raskar of MIT Media Lab describes an application of high-speed femto-/nanosecond photography that enables vision testing using a smartphone, during his plenary talk at SPIE Optical Metrology.

Ramesh Raskar of MIT Media Lab describes an application of high-speed femto-/nanosecond photography that enables vision testing using a smartphone, during his plenary talk at SPIE Optical Metrology.

Optical microscopy can peer into the workings of cells in a minimally invasive manner.

Co-located major European conferences in optical metrology and biomedical optics held in Munich, Germany, 21-25 June, featured highlights including two Nobel Laureates who presented during an International Year of Light (IYL2015) session on their pioneering work to enhance the resolution of microscopes.

SPIE Optical Metrology (SPIE OM) and the SPIE/OSA European Conferences on Biomedical Optics (ECBO) plenary speakers covered applications of light-based technologies ranging from monitoring air pollution and preserving valuable artworks and cultural sites to “seeing” through walls and imaging with ultrashort pulses. A biomedical hot-topics session highlighted developments in areas such as tissue imaging and disease and treatment monitoring, and discussed translation to clinical use.

The conferences were held in conjunction with Laser World of Photonics at Messe München.

In IYL2015 plenary talks, Nobel Laureates Stefan Hell (Max Planck Institute Göttingen) and Eric Betzig (Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute) described the paths that led to their discoveries and how the work has changed cellular imaging capabilities.

Hell explained how optical microscopy can peer into the workings of cells in a minimally invasive manner, describing particular techniques that allow the use of ever-decreasing light intensities to study phenomena at high resolution on lengthening timescales.

Betzig discussed results obtained with photo-activated light microscopy (PALM) and his contributions to super-resolved fluorescence microscopy, the development for which he, Hell, and W.E. Moerner (Stanford University) were recognized with the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Expanding the context to super-resolution and other enhanced resolution techniques, Betzig illustrated how various modalities each provide valuable means by which to examine living samples.

Every photon has a story, noted Ramesh Raskar (MIT Media Lab) in his SPIE OM plenary talk. Diverse work done in his lab illustrates how uncovering those stories deepens understanding of the possibilities made available with light. Reconstructing paths taken by photons undergoing multiple reflections allows for determining scenes in cases without direct line of sight, or "seeing” around corners, and using time-of-flight measurements allows for reconstruction of the scene behind thick diffusers, in effect, "seeing” behind walls. High-speed femto- and nanosecond photography allows visualization of light in motion and of plasma formation. Combined with a smartphone, the appropriate illumination scheme allows for a mobile way to conduct retinal scans.

In the Optics for Arts, Architecture, and Archeology conference, John Delaney (U.S. National Gallery of Art) described how reflection imaging spectroscopy provides both spectral and spatial information to enable applications such as pigment analysis to test for authenticity and aid in restoration, and identification of images underneath the surface.

Femtosecond pump-probe microscopy, already known for its use in biomedical imaging, can help identify age of a painting, provide details about the firing process of pottery, or study mold growth, said Warren Warren (Duke University) in another talk in the conference. Variations in pump-probe decay signal readily permit differentiation between pigments.

Kishan Dholakia (University of St. Andrews) spoke on the growing popularity of light sheet microscopy for imaging in the life sciences, in the conference on Optical Methods for Inspection, Characterization, and Imaging of Biomaterials. Using Airy beams for single-plane illumination microscopy provides a rapid, wide-field-of-view imaging scheme with low sample phototoxicity, enhancing resolution and field of view.

SPIE Past President Katarina Svanberg (Lund University Hospital) introduced ECBO Light for Life plenary hot-topic talks by:

  •     Brett Bouma (Wellman Center for Photomedicine and Harvard University) on endoscopic optical coherence tomography
  •     Quincy Brown (Tulane University) on techniques such as optical molecular imaging and spectroscopic imaging for tissue analysis in surgical oncology
  •     Hamid Deghani (University of Birmingham) on diffuse optical tomography for bedside imaging
  •     Vasilis Ntziachristos (Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen GmbH) on techniques such as fluorescence molecular tomography and photoacoustics to overcome existing optical microscopy limits
  •     Francesco Pavone (European Laboratory for Nonlinear Spectroscopy) on multi-level maps of the brain that move from the centimeter scale of optical microscopes to the nanometer scale of electron microscopes
  •     Peter So (MIT) on tomographic phase microscopy in collecting quantitative 3D data for living cells
  •     Ronald Sroka (Laser Foschungslabor) on new clinical applications of light-based technologies in identifying tumors, treating varicose veins, and other treatments (see more details from a recent related Journal of Biomedical Optics article)
  •     Alex Vitkin, (Ontario Cancer Institute) on polarized light in assessing and diagnosing tissue in treating heart and urological conditions and cancer.

Quantum cascade laser inventor Federico Capasso (Harvard University) provided the World of Photonics plenary talk.

More information on talks is posted in the event news pages, at http://www.spie.org/OM and http://www.spie.org/ECBO.

SPIE President Toyohiko Yatagai presented the 2015 Dennis Gabor Award to Kazuyoshi Itoh (Osaka University) recognizing Itoh’s pioneering work in coherence-based multispectral and 3D imaging, and in nonlinear optical imaging and manipulations of biological and inorganic industrial materials.

IYL2015 was in the spotlight at a luncheon for SPIE Fellows and students, with a talk by IYL2015 steering committee chair John Dudley, and an evening reception. Both events were cosponsored by the European outreach program Light2015 and SPIE Europe.

Photonics industry watchers received an update from SPIE Industry and Market Analyst Steve Anderson on the latest data from the ongoing survey by SPIE.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science and technology. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided more than $4 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2014. http://www.spie.org

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