The Long Wave

01 March 2020
By Gwen Weerts

This issue of Photonics Focus will go to press the first week of February, when tens of thousands of people working in photonics will be gathered in San Francisco to discuss their latest research and products at SPIE Photonics West.

This massive conference reflects the breadth and depth of photonics research and applications, and includes many of the topics under the photonics umbrella, including biomedical optics, optical components, laser science, neurophotonics, additive manufacturing, display technology, and photonic chip development, to name just a few.

The photons that unite all of these fields travel in very long (radio), long (infrared), short (ultraviolet), or incredibly short (gamma) waves, each with different properties and capabilities. This issue of Photonics Focus is absorbed with one slice of that spectrum: the infrared range. (See what I did there?)

Infrared radiation has its best-known applications in military and defense contexts—think night vision goggles—but the infrared spectrum is the enabler of extensive civilian applications as well, including free-space communications, automotive sensing, theranostics, astronomical imaging, fiber optics, and even photonic circuits. It's truly a democratizing wavelength that spans research and applications across all SPIE communities. Kind of like Photonics West (which had 385 papers with "infrared" in either the title or abstract).

The feature articles in this issue explore the role of infrared radiation in tracking endangered species under dense vegetative cover using imaging techniques borrowed from astronomy; the potential for thermal imaging in the race for commercial autonomous vehicles; and an examination of the select "infrared club" of creatures who have the benefit of native infrared vision—and how scientists may soon give humans that ability using nanotechnology.

In honor of Women's History Month (March), the Luminary article sets the record straight about one woman's pioneering physics demonstration of the greenhouse effect slightly before John Tyndall, who was historically credited with the work. Their research, with others, paved the way for modern climate science.

The Bandwidth section has some helpful career advice for entrepreneurs considering a new startup, and for researchers who might like to better communicate their results in the scientific literature.

Gwen Weerts


I enjoyed all of the reader feedback about our first issue , and would like to continue the dialogue. If you have thoughts to share about Photonics Focus—criticisms or praise—please be in touch!, @SPIEtweets.

Thanks for reading,

Gwen Weerts, Managing Editor, Photonics Focus

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