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Impacting Our Food Supply: Good, Enough

Photonics Spectra
Jun 2012

Fit to eat and plenty of it are two characteristics universally desired of the food we eat, but they often go unmet around the world. Now, a growing number of technologies rooted in photonics are ripe and ready to support demands for a safe and sufficient food supply for the world’s 7 billion inhabitants.

Meeting the repast requirements of a hungry world requires both a great deal of space and adequate growing conditions. Where growing seasons are short, some specialty crops can be produced under artificial lighting such as incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. Features editor Lynn Savage tells us that, although both have been used, they are inefficient and costly, and they emit undependable spectra. State-of-the-art LED lighting, however, is gaining traction in crop production, especially in remote areas without dependable year-round sunlight or where specialty crops are in demand. In the article “LEDs Lower Costs, Boost Crops Inside Greenhouses,” beginning on page 50, we look at how LED lighting is being used all over the globe – and even beyond.

Although LED lighting addresses the issue of quantity, an inspection method evolved from military satellites and reconnaissance technology is being applied to food quality concerns. In the article “Hyperspectral Imaging Gets Stamp of Approval for Food Processing,” beginning on page 44, David Bannon and Christopher Van Veen of Headwall Photonics define the promise of hyperspectral imaging across many applications, including in-line processing and inspection of everything from strawberries and apples to poultry and seafood.

Also in this issue

• “In the short time of their existence as open-source research tools, free-electron x-ray lasers such as the Linac Coherent Light Source have offered a versatile and powerful means of pushing the frontiers of atomic, molecular and materials sciences,” write Alan Fry of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Marco Arrigoni of Coherent Inc. Their article, “FEL Pulses and Ultrafast Lasers Team Up to Explore New Frontiers,” begins on page 57.

• “Working with a numerical model is the best way to learn how fiber devices work, how to optimize their designs and what their limitations may be,” writes Rudiger Paschotta of RP Photonics Consulting GmbH. In the article “Modeling Improves Fiber Amplifiers and Lasers,” beginning on page 54, Paschotta tells us that, although fiber amplifiers and lasers offer interesting advantages over more traditional laser types, the performance details often are more complicated than for bulk lasers as a result of strong saturation effects, consequences of a high laser gain and some peculiarities of quasi-three-level laser transitions.

• The Modern Streetcar Project in Tucson, Ariz., was designed to be a sustainable transportation option connecting the city center, the University of Arizona, the Arizona Health Sciences Center and several residential, historic and shopping districts, according to Mike Zecchino of 4D Technology Corp. The project sounded good for the community at large but worried the staff at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). In the article “Interferometer Keeps Optics Shop on Track,” beginning on page 60, Zecchino tells how dynamic interferometry helped the NOAO optics lab beat the vibration.

Meanwhile …

We’re pulling together our annual List Issue industry snapshot. We have asked for your thoughts on essential reading for people in photonics, for the biggest “eureka” moment of your career, and for the funniest thing you’ve ever seen in the lab – your responses have been enlightening, for sure. Look for your answers in the August issue.


GLOSSARY
hyperspectral imaging
Methods for identifying and mapping materials through spectroscopic remote sensing. Also called imaging spectroscopy; ultraspectral imaging.
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