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2015 Research Highlights

Microscopic Imaging: faster, bigger, just became cheaper
Since its invention in the late 16th Century, the optical microscope, has become an essential tool in modern biology, leading to numerous discoveries. Fluorescence is probably the most important optical readout mode because of its high sensitivity and specificity, compared with absorbance and reflectance. Whereas the remarkable breakthroughs based on fluorescence contrast, including the recent Nobel Prizes in green fluorescence protein and super-resolution microscopy, are only a couple of decades old, the fundamental optical design and data collection in the optical microscope have undergone very little change in the last 400 years. In the age of post genomics, the fundamental way we approach biological questions has been changed: more questions can and are necessary to be answered by massive data sets. more...
Optical Multi-Filament Engineering
Nonlinear phenomena are fundamental to laser optics and photonics throughout a wide range of fields. However, these are generally neglected or intentionally avoided when considering free-space propagation of laser beams over >10 m. Ordinarily, air is considered a linear propagation medium although this is not true for sufficiently high laser intensities. Focusing laser beams to extremely high laser intensities is common in many fields such as inertial confinement fusion, coherent and incoherent X-ray/EUV generation, and to a lessor degree laser materials processing; however, in such cases the free-space propagation to the target is assumed or engineered to be linear often by operating at low pressure to reduce absorption, dispersion and/or nonlinear effects in air. more...
Ultra-Broadband Frequency Combs Span the Mid-Infrared
Mid-infrared subharmonic optical parametric oscillators (OPO) produce frequency comb light with one-and-half-octave-wide instantaneous band and superior temporal coherence, suitable for real-time trace molecular detection. more...
Achromatic Phase Elements
Over the last decades phase masks have found numerous applications including imaging, encryption, beam shaping, and mode conversion. There are two typical methods of making such masks. The first one controls the local geometrical path length by generating a contoured surface while the second method changes the local refractive index in the bulk of a photosensitive medium such as lithium niobate or photosensitive glass. Both methods can be employed to generate phase masks with almost any profile. However, because the phase shift is induced by changing the local optical path length these phase masks are inherently limited to use at a specific wavelength, which limits the range of potential applications. To extend this range achromatic phase masks have been previously produced utilizing complex fabrication approaches. more...
Hybrid optical nanocomposites: a low-cost solution to radiation sensors
Nanocomposites, in particular inorganic-organic hybrids, allow for a wide range of combinations of phases with broad applications including solar energy harvesting, lighting, imaging, radiation sensing, lasers, magneto-optics and plasmonics. Intense research eff orts on optical nanocomposites are being motivated by the fascinating prospect that these materials can assume the optical properties of the inorganic phase and yet be processed with the shape versatility, low-cost and ease of polymeric materials. more...
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