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Light, photonics, and human health

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DANIEL MCCARTHY, SENIOR EDITOR [email protected]

DANIEL MCCARTHY, SENIOR EDITORThe correlation between light and human health should come as no surprise. Midsummer corresponds to an increase in outdoor activities. The summer growing season makes fresh produce a more abundant part of our daily diet. And, studies have shown that the extended daylight around the summer solstice, by itself, has proportionately positive effects on everything from mood to productivity to fertility.

So, it seems natural that, as our understanding of photonics has grown, we have found ways to apply light to further advance our collective well-being.

As contributing editor Hank Hogan observes in this month’s cover story, the U.S. Department of Agriculture spent over $1 billion in 2019 to support food safety and inspection operations. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million Americans get sick every year from food-borne pathogens, foreign objects, or poor-quality product.

Imaging and spectroscopy offer valuable, but very different, solutions to this challenge. However, hyperspectral imaging, as Hogan reports here, combines elements from both of these technologies. As faster, more compact, and cheaper hyperspectral cameras continue to emerge, the technology is becoming an even more appealing solution for improving the quality and safety of the food we consume.

The practical application of light to improve human health has parallels in other sectors, as demonstrated by this issue’s update on medical lasers — written by Douglas Farmer, senior editor of BioPhotonics magazine — appearing here. Echoing trends in the food industry, the development of more compact and reliable medical lasers has advanced innovative treatments in ophthalmology, dentistry, dermatology, and neurology.

Another example of photonics’ contribution to human health and the life sciences, in general, comes from advancements in low-light imaging, which is instrumental to fluorescence microscopy. Felix Asche from Basler AG explores developments in CMOS technology that are introducing a viable and cost-effective alternative to CCDs in low-light imaging applications.

These and the other topics covered herein — including laser marking and selecting off-the-shelf optics — all aim to make life easier and better for our readers. So, pour a drink and take this month’s issue out on the deck or by the pool, and enjoy the longest days of the year in good health.

Photonics Spectra
Jun 2021
Editorial

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