5 Cool Ways Optics & Photonics Were Used in April 2020
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20 May 2020

5 Cool Ways Optics & Photonics Were Used in April 2020

The scientific community is an ever-evolving landscape of new discoveries and new uses for old technology.

In the optics and photonics industry, scientists are finding out new ways to utilize the technology they have to make life better for everyone, from coral all the way up to humans.

Here are 5 cool ways optics and photonics were used in April 2020:

Super Fast Cameras

Cameras, both commercial and specialized, have been getting faster and more accurate with the pictures they display for decades.

From the old daguerrotypes which used silver iodide and light to imprint images to today’s ultra-powered digital options, photography has evolved to allow us to see more rich, accurate representations of smaller and smaller items.

Recently, researchers in Switzerland and Japan reported a new development in speed and accuracy for an imaging sensor. This sensor, the team believes, could be widely used in both industrial and scientific research applications.

This new camera can quickly capture detailed 3D images, as well as 2D images of scenes with high dynamic range to allow for greater differentiation in brightness. The technology may be useful in boosting the accuracy of LiDAR for self-driving cars and imaging detail in robotics, augmented reality, and security. It also can be used in biomedical and quantum imaging, improving accuracy and imaging.

Infrared Thermometers

The coronavirus pandemic has put a spotlight directly on monitoring body temperature as a way to quickly and accurately detect infected patients.

However, in order to monitor a patient’s body temperature, a healthcare worker has to be in close proximity to the patient. This increases the risk of the healthcare worker contracting the disease.

To allow for frequent monitoring of a patient’s body temperature but decrease the need for close contact, clinicians are now using infrared-based thermometers. Infrared thermometers can be used without coming into contact with a patient, but still provide accurate, helpful data about that patient’s core body temperature.

Integrated Photonic Chips

Radio and microwave signals are everywhere, including in wireless networks, telecommunications, and radars. To improve the use of these applications, many companies resort to carriers in higher-frequency bands which can cause significant delays in service.

With microwave photonics, optical frequency combs can provide hundreds of equidistant, even laser lines. These ultrashort optical pulses are emitted with a stable repetition rate, producing a microwave carrier.

The coherent, predictable frequency of these microwave carriers improves coverage and reliability of these microwaves, reducing loss.

These microwaves can be used in applications such as improved transceivers in data centers, better LiDAR for autonomous vehicles, compact optical atomic clocks, spectroscopy, and more.

Molecular Diagnosis

As with frequent and reliable temperature monitoring, fast, accurate diagnosis of COVID-19 is essential to decreasing the spread of the disease.

Scientists are able to use a molecular diagnostic test to detect extremely small quantities of viral genetic material from a patient’s nasal or throat swab, leading to a more accurate diagnosis. To make this diagnosis, a sensitive spectroscopic device is used with a technique called real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

In this diagnosis method, specific nucleic acid sequences within the patient’s sample are copied using probes that bind to certain molecules present in the virus. These probes are tagged with molecules of fluorescent dye.

Enzymes are then used to copy the nucleic-acid sequences bound to the probes, and it’s cycled between hot and cold temperatures. These enzymes create duplicate copies and release fluorescent molecules, and the buildup of those fluorescent molecules is measured to detect the virus and estimate the amount of virus present in the sample.

This technology is one of the most sensitive molecular analysis techniques available, giving scientists and clinicians a better chance at more quickly diagnosing the disease in patients.

3D-Printed Corals

While these 3D-printed corals don’t specifically utilize optics and photonics as a technology, they contribute greatly to the overall ecosystem of coral reefs and their use is just one way science is being used in new and interesting ways.

Because of the overall increase in sea temperatures and other stress on corals, coral reefs are dying off in large numbers. When stressed, coral bleaching occurs and can kill the reef entirely, causing a disruption in the life of many other organisms.

To help decrease the speed of coral reef death, researchers have 3D printed coral-inspired structures and installed them in endangered coral reefs. These structures act as light-mediating incubators, allowing the coral to survive better in the harsh conditions and helping improve the overall health of the coral reef ecosystem.

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