Skip to main content


Showing posts from November, 2012

Manipulating nanoscale ‘rainbows’ for solar cells and TV screens

The manipulation of light is a core photonics activity performed in numerous ways for numerous practical effects. For example, consider the design of lasers for purposes as diverse as repairing a retina to restore vision and downloading a movie over the internet onto a tablet for viewing.
Amazing as those human-scale applications are, imagine manipulating multiple colors of light on a structure about 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair -- and then applying that for the very practical effects of sensing toxins, improving solar cell efficiency, enabling optical circuits for tele- and data communications, and improving flat-screen display.
A team of researchers led by Anatoly Zayats in the Biophysics and Nanotechnology Group at King’s College London reported recently in Nature’s Scientific Reports that they had demonstrated how to separate and even rearrange a spectrum of colors and create artificial “rainbows” using nanoscale structures on a metal surface.
The researchers …

Heating up: remote sensing and global warming

After droughts, floods, and a “superstorm” this year, people everywhere are talking about the weather. Some people taking the long-term view are urging us all to not only talk but to think much more deeply -- and even to do something -- about climate change.

"Something extraordinary is going on in the world,” noted New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof as Hurricane Sandy began to dissipate. In a column headlined, “Will climate get some respect now?” Kristof recalled the amazement of Eskimos in Alaska toward the changes they were seeing: "from melting permafrost to robins (for which their Inupiat language has no word), and even a (shivering) porcupine."
Across the Atlantic, Fiona Harvey wrote last week in The Guardian under the headline “Climate change 'likely to be more severe than some models predict'” that the latest climate models predict higher temperature rises along with more extreme weather. In other words, expect more droughts such as the UK…

Why bother with STEM ed?

Experts in STEM education (science, technology, education, and mathematics) point out that in teaching, the “how” of science is more important that the “what.” As Shannon Warren, director of a science education partnership grant program in Washington State, noted in a recent magazine feature, learning science means exploring and analyzing, not just memorizing facts and listening to lectures.
The “why” is an equally key question, and one that evokes very personalized responses. Take Jin Kang’s story, for example. Twenty years ago, Kang was an undergraduate physics student discovering that while he found the theory behind optics and photonics interesting, what he really loved was building lasers and other optical devices.
Kang is now a professor and the chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Johns Hopkins University. He conducts research in biophotonics, fiber optics, and optoelectronic devices for applications in medicine and communications.
One of his primary …