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Enhance, Disrupt, Revolutionize, Repeat

Nov 2011

In his introduction to a plenary session called “Material Nanoscience, Photonics and Technologies for Revolutionary Innovation” at LIA’s ICALEO (International Congress on Applications of Lasers & Electro-Optics) last month in Orlando, Fla., session chairman Kunihiko Washio of Paradigm Laser Research Ltd. in Tokyo said, “Although incremental innovation within a known systematic framework is very important for steady technology progress, disruptive innovation is often desired to push the limits of the imaginable and to leap forward to attain revolutionary innovation.”

Disruptive innovator Steve Jobs, the former Apple CEO, changed the world with his computers and phones, and just one day before he died last month at the age of 56, a press release from the University of California, Davis, described an adaptation to his iPhone that turned it into a microscope capable of both revealing vital medical information and transmitting images for analysis and diagnosis. I wonder if Jobs knew about the adaptation. I wonder what he thought, if he knew, about his disruptive phone being turned into a potentially game-changing device to bring a new level of health care to the world.

The group at UC-Davis was not the first to build a smartphone microscope, and it certainly won’t be the last to add some good, incremental innovation to an already great idea, whatever it may be. And that’s good for all of us. (You can read more about the UC-Davis enhanced iPhone on, Innovation of all kinds keeps an industry growing, and that’s pretty good, too.

In his introduction at ICALEO, Washio went on to say, “Materials science, particularly material nanoscience, is believed to be the treasure house of the seeds of desired disruptive innovations.” The keynote presentation that followed, “The Story and Prospects of Carbon Nanoscience and Technologies for Future Exciting Applications” by Stanford researcher Hongjie Dai, presented a look at carbon nanotubes and their “unique intrinsic physical and chemical properties,” which “can be exploited for biological and biomedical applications including detection, diagnostics, imaging and novel therapy.”

We can’t wait to see where the next disruptive and incremental biophotonics innovations will come from. In a small change of our own, we’re going to focus a couple of articles in every issue around a specific topic, exploring aspects of the subject that are bringing real change to the way we think about biophotonics, its applications and our world.

You might see an update on the smartphone microscope in our September issue coverage of biophotonics and global health, while Dai’s work on carbon nanotubes may make its way into our March issue, with its focus on biophotonics and cancer. With so much interesting work going on in photonics and the life sciences, we wanted to organize it and bring it to you with some sense of the impact it could have on the way we live. We’ll explore photonics in dentistry in January. In February, we’ll take a closer look at biophotonics in the pharmaceutical industry. Other topics will be covered, too, and all the things you like about BioPhotonics will still be there, just enhanced. We hope you like it.

In the meantime, enjoy this issue, and make plans to visit us at our booths at BiOS (8327) and Photonics West (323) in San Francisco in January.

AmericasAsia-PacificBiophotonicsbiophotonics innovationsCaliforniacarbon nanosciencecarbon nanotubesDavisdisruptive innovationdisruptive technologyEditorialHongjie DaiICALEOimagingInternational Congress on Applications of Lasers & Electro-OpticsiPhone microscopeJapanKaren A. NewmanKunihiko WashioLaser Institute of AmericaLIAmaterial nanoscienceMaterial ScienceMaterials & ChemicalsMicroscopynanoParadigm Laser Researchrevolutionary innovationsmartphone microscopeUniversity of California

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