Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Optical

A child playing as seen by a person with Age-related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness among older adults in the western world. Unfortunately, conventional optical aids provide little help for a retina which has lost the acuity of its central area. Now a team of multinational researchers led by University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Professor Joseph Ford has created a telescopic contact lens that can switch between normal and magnified vision to offer AMD patients a relatively unobtrusive way to enhance their vision.  Read More

A Stanford breakthrough in optical metamaterials could enable fabrication of a wide-spectr...

To make a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak requires that the materials from which it is made have a negative refractive index over all optical wavelengths, from red to violet. However, the artificially-structured optical materials from which cloaks are made thus far have been restricted to a very narrow range of optical wavelengths, limiting their ability to cloak over a range of colors. That obstacle to progress ends now, as a group of Stanford optical engineers at Stanford has succeeded in designing a broadband metamaterial that exhibits a negative refractive index over nearly the entire rainbow.  Read More

An optofluidic chip uses fluorescence to detect virus particles

To monitor their infection levels, people carrying chronic viral infections such as hepatitis and HIV need to get their viral load regularly checked. This measures how many viruses are present in a certain volume of blood or bodily fluid with current tests being expensive and needing to be done through laboratories. However, newly developed optical techniques being developed by two independent teams at the University of California could deliver cheaper and faster viral load tests that could be carried out in a medical office, hospital or even in the field.  Read More

Architecture studio Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP has designed the “Optical Glass House” in Hiros...

Architecture studio Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP has designed the “Optical Glass House” in Hiroshima, Japan, that aims to acoustically protect residents from the main road outside, whilst providing light and views for the residents within. The delicate glass blocks belie the structure and a complex casting process is employed to create the 13 ton (11.7 tonne) facade that shows-off the buildings tree-filled courtyard and looks like a shimmering waterfall to the outside world.  Read More

Project 1640 image of the four exoplanets orbiting HR 8977. The image has been enhanced fo...

While the number of exoplanets so far identified is steadily marching towards the 1000 mark, fewer than twenty have been discovered in the course of direct observation by astronomical telescopes. Four of them (HR 8977 b,c,d,and e) circle an unprepossessing A5 star called HR 8977, which lies about 130 light-years distant from Earth. Thanks to the little-known astrophysics research arm of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), we now have the ability to examine the makeup of their atmospheres by taking simultaneous spectrographs of all four planets.  Read More

Researchers have created a bendable, transparent polymer that acts as an image sensor (Pho...

A research team from the Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria has developed an image capturing device using a single sheet of polymer that is flat, flexible and transparent. The researchers say the new image sensor could eventually find its way into devices like digital cameras and medical scanners, and that it may help to usher in a new generation of gesture-controlled smartphones, tablets and TVs.  Read More

Professor Xiong Qihua and his team used a laser to cool the compound Cadmium Sulfide (Phot...

A research team at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has successfully used a laser to cool down a semiconductor material known as Cadmium Sulfide. The results of the recently published study could lead to the development of self-cooling computer chips and smaller, more energy efficient air conditioners and refrigerators that don't produce greenhouse gases.  Read More

A conventional flat mirror (left) and the progressive mirror

Usually when we hear the term “progressive optics” it’s in reference to bi- or trifocal glasses, that don’t have sharp lines between the different focal zones of the lenses. A group of scientists from Korea and the US, however, have recently used the technology to create something else – a prototype driver’s side car mirror that has no blind spot, yet that also doesn’t distort images in an unsafe manner.  Read More

CalTech's new nanofocusing plasmonic waveguide

Engineers at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and the University of California at Berkeley have developed a nanofocusing waveguide, a tiny passive plasmonic device which is capable of concentrating light onto a spot a few nanometers in size. In so doing, they have sidestepped the diffraction-limited nature of light, which normally prevents focusing light to a spot smaller than its own wavelength. This remarkable feat may lead to new optoelectronic applications in computing, communications, and imaging.  Read More

Far-infrared image of a building at night (Image: Robert Gubbins/Shutterstock)

Harvard Professor of Applied Physics Federico Capasso and his collaborators have invented a nearly perfect optical absorber. By coating a piece of sapphire with an exceedingly thin (180 nm) layer of vanadium dioxide (VO2), a surface is created that absorbs 99.75 percent of infrared light with a wavelength of 11.6 micron wavelength. Such optical absorbers can be tailored to enable a wide range of applications.  Read More

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