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You may know it as a common laser, a key part of your super-fast fibre optic broadband, a component in your mobile phone, or an important feature in the latest medical instruments at your local hospital. But it is much more than that.
Photonics is the science and technology of light. It encompasses all of the products and processes around the emission, manipulation, transmission and detection of light and other electromagnetic radiation. It can carry far more information than radio frequency and microwave signals.
It may not be obvious, but it underpins a large number of industries. And it’s not just in grand projects and big business like aerospace, homeland security or biotechnology. Photonics affects all of us in our everyday lives, improving food production with remote sensing, advancing healthcare and keeping a close eye on global warming.
Photonics really is the future. What the electron did for 20th century, with advances in electronics and electricity, so will the photon do for technology of the 21st century with photonics.
The European Commission has long recognized its potential, and has been heavily supporting photonics technology shaping the future. In 2009, the European Commission defined Photonics as one of five European Key Enabling Technologies (KET’s), and invested €700 Million through the European Research & Innovation Program “Horizon 2020”.
Shortly after the start of H2020, it launched Photonics Public Private Partnership (PPP), a long-term commitment between the EC and the photonics stakeholders in Europe. The aim was simple: to secure Europe’s industrial leadership, economic growth and to generate new jobs.
The European photonics industry made the strongest commitment to date, by investing a staggering €5.6 billion in research, innovation and manufacturing in Europe by matching every €1 spent by the European Commission in the PPP, with €4 by industry. To compound matters, Photonics will now have a central role in the Digitising European Industry strategy.
With the global photonics market growing at twice the world economic growth rate, from €350 Billion in 2011 to €615 Billion in 2020, Photonics21 stands in a secure global market position. The production of European photonics alone accounts for €60 billion and employs over 350,000 people directly.
Photonics is providing solutions to many of the global challenges we face, like improved agriculture and farming, providing clean water and sanitisation, and developing the latest medical diagnostics tools to tackle cancers, sepsis, and blindness. With photonics, we are striving to create a better quality of life for all.
Next time you tap on a smartphone, (a device in your pocket that holds more information than all the books in all of the libraries in the world), or watch your smart TV, if you happen to get into a self-driving car, or perhaps when you next ‘facetime’ your loved ones, think of photonics.
Over 2.5 million people in Europe and more than 5.4 million Americans suffer from hypersensitivity to Beta Lactam Antibiotics (BLCs), the most commonly prescribed drugs that contain the penicillin family, with up to 10 percent of people reporting an allergy.
Despite its effectiveness, many people avoid penicillin and its relatives fearing a severe allergic reaction, where symptoms can include wheezing, coughing, breathing problems, tissue swelling, or in some serious cases anaphylaxis, requiring urgent medical attention.
Currently, anaphylaxis leads to 500–1,000 deaths per year in the United States, 20 deaths per year in the United Kingdom, and 15 deaths per year in Australia. It is thought that drugs may be accountable for as many as 1 in 2 anaphylactic deaths
With existing in-vitro allergy detection technology delivering a waiting time of over 3 hours and a cost of €30 per allergen, a team of European researchers running the Horizon 2020 project COBIOPHAD (‘Compact Biophotonic Platform for Drug Allergy Diagnosis’), aim to improve this with their scanning device employing the latest photonics technology.
Similar in size to a small notebook computer, the detector, which could be used in hospitals in as little as five years, examines a tiny plasma sample from the patient’s blood, producing a result in less than 30 minutes and at a cost of €2.40 per allergen, a twelfth of the current price.
It works by ‘reading’ a compact disc-like cartridge with a laser, similar to the way an everyday CD ROM drive in your computer works. The cartridge contains pre-loaded Beta Lactam reagents which will recognise a specific Immunoglobulin E (IgE), (the antibody contained in blood that plays a vital part in manifestation of allergy), and a secondary tracer antibody.
When the patient’s blood sample is run across the cartridge, if there is a positive response the lgE will recognise the antibiotic and the laser will read the reaction product, leading to an unambiguous detection. The intensity of this signal is related to the levels of hypersensitivity within the patient for ten different targeted Beta Lactams.
Although similar laser-reading tests exist, the COBIPHAD device distinguishes itself not only in terms of speed, cost and size, but also because it has the potential to look at a greater number of samples per disc by testing different drugs at different compartments of the cartridge and avoiding contamination. Exploitation Manager, Dr Ian McKay explains:
“The COBIOPHAD device aims to take drug hypersensitivity detection into a new era: compared to current tests our device can deliver a rapid diagnosis of the main allergenic BLCs in less than half an hour, making it 6 times faster.”
“With an improved in vitro diagnostic (IVD), we offer a much more patient-friendly alternative to the invasive and risky in vivo testing. Current IVDs, developed with bulky auto-analysers and based on classical technologies, show poor sensitivity (less than 40%) and detection limits (more than 0.2 kU per litre), analyse only five beta-lactam antibiotics and give false-positive and negative results.”
“The COBIOPHAD approach must reach a sensitivity of 80% with a detection limit below 0.1 kU per litre. It deploys an increased multiplexing capability, looking at more samples per disc and examines a greater number of BLCs per sample. As a result the overall system is a hundred times more efficient.”
With savings of €27.60 per patient amounting to a colossal €69 million per year from European sufferers, and by significantly reducing the costs from additional hospitalization from allergic reactions to certain drugs creating potential savings in this area of up to €4500 per patient, the COBIOPHAD team have large scale ambitions.
Earlier this year the COBIOPHAD project received a grant of €3,734,780.64 from the EU via the H2020 and the Photonics Public Private Partnership. Concluding at the end of 2018, COBIOPHAD is made up of a number of high profile European organisations, including Universitat Politècnica de València (Spain), Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Montpellier (France), Dr. Fooke-Achterrath Laboratorien GMBH (Germany), DAS Photonics (Spain), Fundación para La Investigación del Hospital Universitario de la Comunidad Valenciana (Spain), Optoelectronica (Romania), Stiftelsen Sintef (Norway), EurExploit Ltd (UK), STRATEC Consumables (Austria) and Biotronics 3D Limited (UK)
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The next Photonics Public Private Partnership Annual Meeting has been scheduled on the 28th and 29th March 2017. The event will be held in Brussels. We kindly invite you to already mark the date in your calendar. Any further details will be communicated and published on the Photonics21 website within the next months.
The ‘PhotonicSensing’ call for proposals has been published online on 1September 2016. It invites research project proposals on photonic sensing techniques, aiming at technology readiness levels (TRL) 3 to 6, for the following application areas:
• Safety including food safety
• Civil security
• Manufacturing / production
• Environmental monitoring
• Medical applications
Project consortia should be made up of companies and research institutions from at least two of the participating countries and regions: Austria, Flanders Region (Belgium), Germany, Israel, Poland, Portugal, Turkey, Tuscany Region (Italy) and the United Kingdom. In exceptional cases, partners from additional countries or regions may join the consortia without receiving funding under the ‘PhotonicSensing’ competition.
Complete information on the competition including guidance for applicants is available from the call website at https://photonicsensing.eu/call-2016/
The camera, measuring the size of a shoebox, uses Multi Spectral Imaging, a process that captures the same image at different frequencies from the electromagnetic spectrum.
Certain combinations of multispectral images can reveal information that humans cannot see, such as invisible or poisonous gasses, or fire sources through dense fog, providing an unrivalled level of surveillance.
Current MSI cameras are unsuitable for moving objects or real-time observation because they are not ‘snapshot’ devices and use a filter wheel that needs to be rotated. They contain sensors which use technology that needs to be cooled to work, meaning the equipment is bulky.
Weighing less than 2kg, the breakthrough device deploys the latest photonic sensing technology, featuring a multi-aperture, multi sensor camera capable of capturing several wavelengths simultaneously in one place.
With the World Health Organisation estimating in 2014 that nearly 600,000 deaths are a result of air pollution in Europe, and with monitoring of civil infrastructures being an important area for video surveillance equipment and services in the future, this device looks set to play a key role in high-tech safety and security.
Coordinated in Spain, the SEERS, or ‘Snapshot spectral imager for IR surveillance’, project has received a grant of €3,750,535 from Horizon 2020 via the Photonics Public Private Partnership. Project coordinator, Anton Garcia-Diaz explains:
“The SEERS device is equipped with integrated computational imaging. It has no need for cooling and can process the images in real-time, meaning key parts of processing are embedded within the device.”
This is not just good news for coastal and traffic surveillance but also the implications for the future of safety in tunnels and the Underground tube train network are exciting.
"Accidents in tunnels, while rare, are extremely serious when they do happen. Responding quickly and in a targeted manner is vital. We expect rescue and response times will be cut significantly with the SEERS camera", Garcia-Diaz said.
Based on CMOS compatible FPA manufacturing technology means it is much cheaper than alternative IR technology. A commercial monochromatic camera working in the mid infrared range of 3-5 µm wavelengths is a bulky, cooled device that costs anything over €70,000.
“Few imaging systems exist with the capability to identify gases, but even they can cost over €100,000. The SEERS project aims to deliver MSI technology in an extended infrared domain at under €40,000 with improved persistence and gas identification capabilities”, said Garcia-Diaz.
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The program, which will run for three and a half years, has joined a research group consisting of 13 companies and six research organizations. The majority of them are also members of the Slovenian national platform for photonics – Fotonika21.
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Matjaž Humar, a postdoctoral research assistant at the Condensed Matter Physics department, was awarded a special EUR 311,202 grant by the institute's director for a three-year period.
The goal is to launch a world-leading bio-integrated photonics lab, Humar told the STA news service. He explained that bio-integrated photonics was a new field with countless opportunities to explore.
To study living organisms, bio-integrated photonics traditionally relies on artificial light sources and optical components made from non-biocompatible materials.
Humar wants to take it one step further and develop optical material that is biocompatible and can be ingested or implanted in the human body. For example, biodegradable photonics would allow doctors to take higher resolution images deeper inside the body than ever before.
Last year, Humar and his colleague Seok-Hyun Yun of the Harvard Medical School succeeded in implanting and operating a laser inside a single living human cell for the first time. They also proved that fat cells already contain lasers that only need to be activated.
Humar presented his achievement at the 66th Nobel Laureate Meeting 2016 in Lindau, Germany. About 400 young scientists from 80 countries were invited, with 29 Nobel laureates in attendance.
His next goal is to build lasers entirely made of living cells and organisms that are biocompatible and biodegradable in the human body. At the moment he is working on a project that aims to build laser tattoos.
Matjaž Humar graduated from the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Ljubljana, and has a PhD in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology from the Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School.
He has a postdoctoral position at the Harvard Medical School's Wellman Center for Photomedicine and is a Marie Curie fellow.
Published in STAscience, Ljubljana, 12 August
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About the size of a small book, the microscope is part of a new platform combining photonics technology, microfluidics and molecular biology, which has the potential to simultaneously detect more than one million biomarkers, the tell-tale signs of diseases such as Sepsis, a potentially fatal whole-body inflammatory reaction caused by severe infection, which kills more than 20,000 people per day worldwide.
Current techniques can take as long as one day to perform a similar test. This new method can produce a result in just 30 minutes.
By sending polarised beams of light through birefringent crystals and a cartridge containing a blood drop and an array of receptors, the system is able to detect the interaction of light with the bacteria or proteins captured by the receptors. The intensity of the transmission image is then analysed to provide the physician with an accurate detection of ‘what’, and ‘how much’ bacteria or proteins are present.
With bacteria currently needing to reproduce in large quantities before an accurate diagnosis can be made, this can mean a patient waiting over 24 hours before all the information is at hand to decide a course of treatment. This new device produces sample-to-result processing times up to 50 times quicker than current methods and with a condition like Sepsis, where time is of the essence, this looks set to usher in a new era of medical diagnosis.
Developed by the, ‘Scalable point-of-care and label free microarray platform for rapid detection of Sepsis’, or ‘RAIS’, the project is coordinated by ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, Spain and is yet another success story for the Photonics Public Private Partnership. Dr Josselin Pello, senior researcher on the project explains,
“Sepsis is one of the top 10 causes of death in the world. It can strike regardless of age, gender or fitness. Doctors need a quick, reliable way of detecting Sepsis and what stage it has reached.”
“Current methods exist, but they are too slow: they can only look at a couple of parameters at a time and they will not tell the physician what type of bacteria it is that is causing Sepsis. A doctor may not therefore prescribe the correct treatment in time.”
“RAIS can simultaneously examine many biomarkers, such as micro-ribonucleic acids or interleukins, and will let you know the bacteria source much earlier, allowing you to choose the correct treatment sooner”, said Dr Pello.
The financial implications of RAIS are very exciting. According to Dr Cindy Rechner, Clinical Trial Coordinator at Thermo Fisher Scientific,
“Not only can the RAIS device save lives through faster diagnosis of Sepsis but at under €50 per patient for a test it could remarkably reduce the estimated 10 billion Euros spend each year in Europe and the USA on hospital stays and unnecessary drugs.
With the portable, point-of-care device being easy to use, complete with integrated software, it is thought that not only could this be used in remote areas by junior physicians, but self-diagnosis could be commonplace in the future.
“Although we are a long way off this, a self-diagnosis kit would certainly help with conditions like meningitis where an early diagnosis could be the difference between life and death”, said Dr Pello.
You can download the full press release.
- Almae technologies is commercializing an innovative photonic technology developed by teams from Nokia Bell Labs, Thales and the CEA at III-V Lab to address telecom and data storage center demands for very high speed optical data transmission.
- The startup has the industrial infrastructure to rapidly bring to market advanced components required to keep pace with the rapid growth in Internet data volumes.
Marcoussis, 29 June 2016 – With the regrouping of teams from III-V Lab (a company under the French “Economic Interest Group” scheme, consisting of researchers from Nokia Bell Labs, Thales and CEA/LETI), Almae technologies is taking over III-V Lab’s facilities at Marcoussis. Spun-off by III-V Lab in October 2015, Almae technologies will use the epitaxy reactors and electronic nanolithography equipment validated by III-V Lab to immediately ready for production III-V semiconductor wafers for the telecommunications market.
With over 2000 m² of clean rooms, Almae technologies will have an annual full production capacity of several thousand semiconductor wafers incorporating new-generation laser components that support very high speed access over optical fiber.
Along with the acquisition of this critical equipment, Almae technologies will benefit from a technology transfer from III-V Lab, with operational support from the laboratory's R&D teams in laser design, fabrication and characterization. This technology transfer will enable the start-up to rapidly achieve industrial scale and to develop products that meet the growing world market demand for advanced semiconductor lasers based on III-V materials.
“We are delighted to have made this deal with Almae technologies, which brings to the market more than 10 years of research work on access photonics, strengthens our position as a technology leader in the field of laser applications for telecoms and demonstrates the value of our model of an innovative, open industrial laboratory," commentst François LUC, President of III-V Lab.
A growth market serving the needs of tomorrow’s telecoms
The rapid growth worldwide in the number of Internet users, connected objects and data traffic have led to massive use of fiber optics and hence of semiconductor lasers, which are essential for encoding the signal onto an optical carrier for transmission through the fiber.
The market has a strong growth outlook, in particular in Asia and the United States. The optical communications transmitter segment has been assessed at 4 billion dollars and is running at an annual growth rate of 12%.
A technological breakthrough in photonic integration moves out of the laboratory
Almae technologies designs and produces Indium Phosphide (InP) wafers to implement photonic circuits integrating semiconductor lasers, made possible by licensing a portfolio of patents from Nokia. This involves a technology for growing materials with atomic-scale control developed in III-V Lab: this "buried stripe" laser technology is at the leading edge of global innovation in photonics. It consists of covering the smiconductor strip constituting the laser with an electrical insulator material with sub-micron precision, enabling good thermal exchange and optimum optical guidance of the beam. This technique enhances the implementation, stability and performance of integrated lasers: a range of products operating at upt to25 Gbit/s is in the process of development.
“We are very proud that the photonic technologies developed by Nokia Bell Labs and III-V Lab will now be applied by Almae technologies in the creation of semiconductor wafers for telocommunications industry. Many of these optical technologies are at the core of next generation networks, including 5G. they will provide the greater speed and processing required to meet the needs of a fully mobile and connected society while consuming less power. Almae technologies will also provide a reliable industrial supply chain for our innovations going forward! says Jean-Luc Beylant, President of Nokia Bell Labs France.
“We welcome the agreement with III-V Lab: it will enable Almae technologies to develop its epitaxial wafer manufacturing business on an industrial scale, along with high added value services in collaboration withInPACT, a III-V Lab partner for 10 years, while positioning Almae as a major player in the field of photonic integrated circuits. This new R&D and industrial production activity will contribute to the dynamism of the ecosystem of the Saclay plateau technology region by creating value and highly-skilled jobs in the growing sector of photonics applied to telecommunications," says Jean-Louis Gentner, founder and CEO of Almae technologies.
You can download the full press release
The device can scan from a distance of up to 30 metres and is capable of instantaneous, real-time, unambiguous detection. Harnessing new photonics technology, the device uses spectroscopic sensors, that read the unique frequencies, or ‘signatures’ given off when liquids or gasses interact with light.
With real-time scanning delivering a realistic detection rate of one every few seconds, and therefore a rate of 1200 per hour, the new device can deliver over 6 times more capability than state of the art trace portal scanners that detect bombs and illegal drugs at a rate of 180 of passengers per hour.
While the device has many other capabilities, such as the early detection of diseases, scanning for bacteria in fridges or even detecting the presence of alcohol from afar, its stand-off detection capabilities mean the small device could be installed on the front of airports, scanning crowds in real-time for suspicious material, like explosives or illegal drugs, before they even entered the building.
The MIRPHAB, or ‘Mid-Infrared photonics devices fabrication for chemical sensing and spectroscopic applications’ project, is being coordinated by CEA-Leti, France, and has received funding of €13,013,967.39 from the European Commission's Photonics Public Private Partnership under the Horizon 2020 program, and €2,005,280.00 from the Swiss Government.
Project coordinator Sergio Nicoletti says "we are making the next generation of sensors that are compact, low cost and low on power consumption and capable real-time detection where the speed and sensibility is unrivaled. We want to shrink current technology down to the size of a mobile phone".
Jose Pozo, Director of Technology and Innovation, at the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) says, "Spectroscopic sensing in the MIR wavelength band (3 ÷ 12 μm) is a powerful analytical tool to address societal challenges like climate change or monitoring emission controls."
"In this wavelength band, the so-called "fingerprint region", chemicals exhibit intense adsorption features allowing superior detection capabilities and unambiguous identification", said Pozo.
With links already established in sectors such as health, automotive, medical and domestic, Pozo explains that MIRPPHAB will turn these achievements into business and commercial opportunities for both SMEs and large industrial groups.
"Within MIRPHAB, we have set the ambitious goal of creating a commercially viable pilot line for the fabrication of Mid-IR sensors that is ready for business by 2020. This result will be achieved by setting up and operating a fabrication platform, offering open access for fast Mid-IR device prototyping to European industry.
"Any European company with a business on analytical sensing can apply. They will receive matching funding to cover the prototyping costs of the MID-IR sensing system of up to €230K. Such a system will be integrated from mature components from our extended library, including laser sources, detectors and micro-optics. Furthermore, the related services to prototyping also include micro assembly and standard reliability studies", said Pozo.
You can download the full press release.