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Stirring Up a Passion for Photonics

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by Lynn Savage

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 24, 2010 — It rather stands out among the shiny high-tech devices strung along the aisles at the BiOS trade exhibition — a simple pine valise propped open at one of the tables belonging to Omega Optical.

Rough-hewn by comparison with the colorful, glossy filters and other optical components the company has brought to showcase, the box reminds passersby of the Vermont countryside outside the windows of Omega’s Brattleboro headquarters. A glance inside, though, quickly shows that there’s a tale to tell: Poking out at all angles is an assortment of light sources, meters, optical mounts and filters, and instructions on how to use them all.

The wooden case holds a fully realized photonics exploration kit, designed to help science educators teach students about the way light is created, manipulated and put to work for a variety of tasks, from medicine to solar power. The company developed the kit to provide basic training that kids might not be exposed to, even as optical engineers and photonics researchers are becoming more in demand.

The kit provides up to a dozen “laboratories” that highlight traditional optical topics such as absorption, reflection, refraction and polarization. As lessons progress, the kit also supplies the equipment and instructions to study fiber optics, optical communication, wave-particle duality and other more complex topics.

The full kit costs about $1500; a partial kit with six labs is available for $900. In addition to the storage chest, the kit includes:
  • six each of nine different optical interference filters
  • six each of laser diode, LED, fluorescence, incandescence and atomic emission light sources
  • six digital multimeters
  • six pieces of mounting hardware
  • license to reproduce 12 laboratory lesson plans
  • instructor plans with support notes
  • charts displaying the electromagnetic spectrum

Lynn Savage
[email protected]
Jan 2010
The transfer of energy from an incident electromagnetic energy field with wavelength or frequency to an atomic or molecular medium.
optical filters
An optical element that blocks or transmits a selected wavelength of light. Optical filters can either be absorption filters or interference filters. Absorption filters absorb any unwanted wavelengths while the interference filter will use the effects of constructive and destructive superposition to transmit only the selected wavelength.
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
With respect to light radiation, the restriction of the vibrations of the magnetic or electric field vector to a single plane. In a beam of electromagnetic radiation, the polarization direction is the direction of the electric field vector (with no distinction between positive and negative as the field oscillates back and forth). The polarization vector is always in the plane at right angles to the beam direction. Near some given stationary point in space the polarization direction in the beam...
Return of radiation by a surface, without change in wavelength. The reflection may be specular, from a smooth surface; diffuse, from a rough surface or from within the specimen; or mixed, a combination of the two.
The bending of oblique incident rays as they pass from a medium having one refractive index into a medium with a different refractive index.
absorptionBasic ScienceBiophotonicsBiOsenergyfiber opticsFiltersLaboratorieslesson planslight sourcesLynn SavagemetersOmega Opticaloptical communicationoptical filtersoptical mountsopticsphotonicsphotonics kitPhotonics Westpolarizationpw10reflectionrefractionscience educatorsscience studentssolar powerSPIE Photonics West 2010Vermontwave-particle dualityLEDs

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