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The Best of 2010

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The Most Popular Stories of the Year

Because the content on is so diverse, we have divided the most popular stories for 2010 by subject (Lasers, Optics and Imaging). These are the top five stories for the year in each category, as chosen by our readers:


Land-locked Laser Burns Boat Across Potomac (October)
Defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. reported its maritime laser system showed "higher lethality" at longer ranges, after a system test resulted in several laser burns through small sections of a boat located across the Potomac River. The laser created the holes while on land at the Potomac River Test Range. 

Germanium Laser Redefines Physics (February) 
The first laser built from germanium that emitted wavelengths of light useful for optical communications was demonstrated by MIT researchers. Unlike typical laser material, germanium is easy to incorporate into existing processes for manufacturing silicon chips — an important step toward mass-producing light-based computers. 

Life Without Lasers? (July)
If you were offered $1000 to go an entire day without interacting with lasers, do you think you could do it? What if you also couldn't use anything that had been built with the help of lasers? Doesn't sound too hard, or does it? 

Single-Atom Laser Realized (March)
Researchers in Austria successfully realized a single-atom laser, an important step toward a fundamental understanding of laser operation in the few-atom limit, including systems based on semiconductor quantum dots or molecules. 

NIF Achieves Historic Laser Shot (February)
The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory delivered an historic level of laser energy — more than 1 MJ — to a target in a few billionths of a second and demonstrated the target drive conditions required to achieve fusion ignition.


Physicists Prove Einstein Wrong (May)
A century after Albert Einstein said we would never be able to observe the instantaneous velocity of tiny particles as they randomly shake and shimmy — so-called Brownian motion — University of Texas physicist Mark Raizen and his group did just that.

Novel Metamaterial Responds to Visible Light (April)
An artificial optical material with a three-dimensional structure was engineered at California Institute of Technology to bend light in the “wrong” direction from what normally would be expected, irrespective of the angle of the approaching light. By requiring only a single function layer, this new type of negative-index metamaterial was simpler than previous ones yet more versatile, in that it could handle light with any polarization over a broad range of incident angles, and at visible frequencies.


Quantum Optical Chip Ramps Up Computing (September)
A new approach to computing that used a quantum optical chip was announced by an international research group led by scientists from the University of Bristol, who speculated that it could soon be used to perform complex calculations incapable by current computers.


Undersea Optical Communication (February)
An undersea optical communications system complemented by acoustics enabled a virtual revolution in high-speed undersea data collection and transmission. The engineers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who devised the system likened it to advances in cell phones and wireless Internet access.

Micro-Optics Homogenize Light (February)
A difficult technical problem in producing pure, uncolored white light was solved by creating a nanostructured optical material from inorganic and organic components. "For a long time, producing white light with no peripheral color effects was an almost unsolvable technical problem," said Dr. Michael Popall of the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in Wurzburg.




New Cell Phone App: Night Vision (May)
A University of Florida engineer crafted a nickel-sized imaging device for night vision that used organic LED technology similar to that found in cell phone or laptop screens. But unlike night vision goggles, which are heavy and expensive, the device was paper-thin, light and inexpensive, making it a possible add-on to cell phone cameras, even eyeglasses, once it could be enlarged. 

Lensless Microscope Made for Telemedicine (April)
Aydogan Ozcan, whose invention of a novel lensless imaging technology for telemedicine could radically transform global health care, took his work a step further by creating a miniature microscope, the smallest and lightest to date for telemedicine applications.

Images of Atomic Spin Captured (April)
While spintronics is being touted as the key to next generation computers and high-tech devices, no one had actually seen an atomic spin — until it was imaged for the first time by physicists at Ohio University and the University of Hamburg in Germany.

NIR Light Enables Deep Look at Cells
A “game-changing” technique using near-infrared light enabled scientists to look deeper into the guts of cells, potentially opening up a new frontier in the fights against cancer and many other diseases.

Mini Telescope Implant Approved (July)
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an implantable miniature telescope made by VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies Inc. to improve vision in some patients with end-stage age-related macular degeneration.
Dec 2010
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