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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Espresso for the Brain – CLEO: 2013

Being an active OSA young professional comes with additional bonuses once in a while. This time, I was happily summoned as “scientific paparazzi” to sneak into one of the committee meetings for CLEO: 2013 happening in the DC metropolitan area. Digging for insider info on CLEO’s hot topics and from CLEO: 2013 committee chairs and members – as they reviewed, scored and sessioned all the CLEO papers was the top mission.
My first impression about this conference is the vibrant energy. All the chairs and committee members were holding such high spirits. I don’t feel they came to the conference as referees to select the best papers. I feel they came to learn more and look for new inspiration. While it can be difficult to make decisions on which papers represent the best in the field – they are there to do their job – accepting only the highest-quality papers for the CLEO: 2013 program.
My first personal encounter with one of the Chairs was a short conversation with professor James C. Wyant, who also served as President of OSA in 2010. As program co-chair of “CLEO: Applications & Technology,” he is very happy to see CLEO is creating a trend of applying its strength in core science into applications. This, of course, will foster more interaction between academia and industry. He is especially keen on the topics about “metrology” and “sustainable energy – laser-driven inertial fusion energy”. If you are still not aware of these two topics, I strongly advise you to check out the short course on metrology, and the tour of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) to learn more and gain a first hand experience. All of these sound very exciting. Joining the tour allows you to have the chance to see one of the most powerful lasers in the world, and how to use it to mimic the core of the sun. And, the metrology course will introduce you to the tabletop X-ray light source that is one of the prominent rising stars in optical science. You better grab your opportunity to attend by checking out the CLEO website now.
Professor Wyant also shared the concern about the impact of U.S. federal government’s sequester on optical science too. Although we all feel sorry about the cuts on financial support, he is cautiously optimistic. Optical science has found its applications in many aspects of our society, and many more will come. With all of humanity benefiting from optical science applications, we shall look for more that originate from optical science to accompany our future. Thanks to him and many other researchers, we are striving toward this goal.
Then, I was lucky to catch a few humorous and witty scientists during the lunch break. Having a meal together with Professor Christian Wetzel, Professor Mark A. Zondlo, and Dr. Max Shatalov – manager of SETi. They all serve in the session of environment/energy. They were impressed by an increase of the number of the submitted papers. To me, it seems to make sense. With the population of Homo sapiens increasing, the Earth is barely breathing. Without our effort, we will definitely engage into an irreversible future. As a result, taking care of the environment must become our priority, and I am happy to see research that is helping to make this possible.
They also told me about some interesting topics you should not miss:
1. Using the quantum cascade lasers for the environmental sensing: We are all very excited that QC lasers are finally portable and can be brought to the field for various applications. For example, trace gases like SO2, methane, or air pollutants are all targets under the scrutiny of QC lasers. If you are a green-oriented person, you should not miss this opportunity when you come to CLEO: 2013. In addition, we were discussing a very interesting paper in which a laser is used to probe the “particle size.” Again, if you feel intrigued about it, you just have to keep your eyes open for topics like these while wandering around in the conference center.
2. Using UV-LED, for sterilization and water purification: This is a perfect example of how optical science is helping the humanity. UV-LED, being more compact and consuming less energy compared with traditional light sources, will probably become the main light source for food sterilization (in our discussion, UV-LED shining on strawberries was the content). The environmental impact of adopting this new light source into the food processing chain is self-evident. Cool science with a mix of practical goals – I guess this is yet another reason why CLEO is awesome.
3. Solar energy harvesting: How to harvest solar energy in a more efficient way is always an attractive scientific challenge for the researchers. In our short break, we touched on the topic of multi-junction cells, patterned surface — either nano or micro scales to trap more light into the solar cells, and using organic media to harvest the solar energy. Checking out the talk presented by Rebecca Jones-Albertus is a good entry point for you to delve into this domain.
In order to please the crowds of hard-core scientists, I also had a short chat with professor Zhigang Chen, who is serving for the CLEO: QELS Fundamental Science session of Nonlinear Optics and Novel Phenomena. He mentioned with zeal to me the breakthrough in plasmonic resonance, arbitrary trajectory manipulation of light propagation, using photonic periodic structure to test the idea of super-symmetry, and so on. The depth of the fundamental science he was trying to convey blows me away. Topics like these will always find their places in CLEO, and I always feel this is one of CLEO’s strengths. In fact, the entire QELS program poses a mental stimulus to my brain. These courses are so stimulating they are like “ “espresso for the brain!”
The truth is what I mention here provides just a small glimpse into all the great content being featured at CLEO. To get a glimpse at the full conference program, visit the CLEO website here!
View exclusive interviews with the Chairs and get more personal insight on hot topics and trends at CLEO: 2013
There is no break in the review conference. Everyone is eager to share their ideas. People were shuffling around to maximize their precious time together.


The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not represent the Optical Society of America (OSA) or any OSA affiliate.