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Showing posts from November, 2015

Improve and carry on, use the fear: advice from women in STEM

Interest in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) can lead to a wide variety of careers. A few examples:
exploring photonic nanostructures that can improve the efficiency of solar energy generationobserving micro-organisms in the Arctic ice to learn more about lifeforms of all sortsdeveloping optical systems for noninvasive diagnosis of tumors inside the bodyassessing the radiation hazard to be incurred by humans travelling to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The paths to all careers include some challenges. For anyone looking at a career in STEM, the latest edition of a free annual publication offering insights on those paths has just been released.
The 12th edition of the Women in Optics Planner published by SPIE contains more insights from more than 30 women discussing their interests and occupations and offering advice. Among their stories:
Perla Marlene Viera-Gonzalez, a PhD student at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, specializes in optical design applied to so…

Six dramatic advances in solar energy

Harvesting, collecting, and deriving usable energy from the Sun and other sustainable sources for people around our planet has made important leaps forward of late. Whether it is summer or winter in your part of the world, that’s excellent news for our future energy needs.
An open-access article in the Journal of Photonics for Energy co-authored by nine international experts* details some of those advances. Here’s a short list from their review of the state of the art, titled "The role of photonics in energy."
1. Making cheaper and more efficient solar cells
Today’s solar cells are based on inorganic semiconductors -– particularly silicon, the second most abundant material in the Earth’s crust. However, silicon solar cells, although relatively expensive to manufacture, are not the most efficient at converting solar energy into electrical energy.
Solar cells based on other semiconductors are more efficient at conversion but also cost more to make.
A new generation of solar c…

Speaking out about climate change is urgent in our ‘crucial century’

The approach of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in early December has global leaders from every sector thinking about technology opportunities to help meet greenhouse-gas-emissions reduction goals in an effort to mitigate climate change.
Photonics technologies play an important part in enabling and driving applications that support sustainable development and the green economy. Researchers, engineers, and developers in the optics and photonic community are continually finding new ways to enhance our lives with these technologies.
But there is another sort of opportunity for the photonics community to take up: speaking out about the urgency to take action, particularly in the face of climate-change skepticism or denial.
UK Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees is among scientists who are doing so. Framing the issue in a recent commentary in the Financial Times, he characterized this century as the first in the Earth’s 45-million-year history when “one species -- ours …