Mourou and other nobelprize-worthy research at CLEO-Europe/EQEC

The Conference on Lasers & Electro-Optics / Europe and European Quantum Electronics Conference (CLEO® / Europe - EQEC) from 23 to 27 June 2019 will be a superlative event. The conference program already fills 175 pages, filled with over 2000 presentations in 215 sessions, of which up to 15 will run in parallel. Here, the CLEO-chairmen Prof. Trevor Benson and Prof. Matthias Kling explain the highlights they are looking forward to, hoped-for impulses for their own research at the University of Nottingham, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, and what current innovations in photonics they see as having market-changing potential.

A double interview! Who speaks about the first 1.000 presentations of CLEO and who about the second 1000?—No, seriously, do you still have the overview at this huge conference?

Prof. Trevor Benson: In fact the programme will feature 2.006 presentations including four plenary talks, five tutorial talks, six keynote talks and more than 80 Invited talks. Besides we have 22 upgraded talks to invited, five special oral contributions and 982 oral talks as well as a total of 896 poster presentations. Obviously it is a huge meeting. The planning started two years ago. CLEO Europe has been going since 1994 and has been located in Munich since 2003. So we have a lot of experience and protocols of what needs to be done by when, to build on. As general chairs for the CLEO-Europe Matthias and I, together with our co-chairs Massimo Giudici and Stephan Götzinger for EQEC, discuss which topics are relevant, ensure that the meeting remains well balanced and we keep a general overview to ensure that everything is done in a fair and timely manner. But we are not alone. We are expertly guided by the colleagues of the European Physical Society—and we receive invaluable strong support from the Program Chairs and a total of more 23 subcommittees for the CLEO and the EQEC, each with about 11 members. So to answer your question: As a general chair you get an overview of the topics and their balance, while on the program and subcommittee level you get perhaps the greatest technical overview.

Prof. Matthias Kling: For me it’s the largest conference that I`ve ever had the honor to co-organize in a leading role. The sheer amount of colleagues who work together to run the CLEO®/EQEC is really mindblowing—I think it is close to 300 experts, who are evaluating the abstracts, attend the technical meetings and in the end also advertise the conference to our community. Of course, it is a tremendous effort to keep track of what’s going on. But I appreciate the opportunity to set highlights or to introduce new topics into the conference program as a General Chair.

Do you personally have highlights that you are particularly looking forward to?

Kling: We have the honor to present a plenary by Gérard Mourou, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018. You can imagine, that those who receive a Nobel Prize are heavily overbooked from there on. He is part of our community, a close colleague in attosecond physics—and although we had already invited our plenaries for the conference when he received the prize, fortunately agreed to give an additional plenary talk…

Benson: …we are both looking forward to that one! Gérard is a great advocate for European photonics in general…

Kling: …and we are also trying to identify topics that are ideally close to the Nobel Prize. For me, our keynote speaker Michal Lipson with her research in the field of silicon photonics is absolutely one of them. And personally as an attosecond physicist, I’m looking forward to Anne L'Huillier’s tutorial talk. She is a real pioneer in the field of attosecond physics. Other highlights I see in the field of photonics in medicine, where multimodal spectroscopy and microscopy will lead to new levels in diagnostics of diseases like cancer in very early stages.

Benson: I personally look forward to the sessions in the field of mid-infrared photonics, in which I research in Nottingham. We are trying to develop those technologies for real time portable sensing and imaging in health care, here especially mid-infrared fiber optics and mid-infrared supercontinuum lasers. One of the biggest sessions is on the fiber and guided wave lasers and amplifiers that I´ll surely attend. Michal Lipson´s plenary talk is also one of my highlights. She is a real star in the field of silicon photonics. But I´m also very interested in Anton Zeilinger EQEC plenary talk concerning photonic entanglement and Karsten Danzmann's World of Photonics plenary on gravitational wave astronomy. Besides I´m organizing a special joint symposium that celebrates 50 years of integrated optics. As part of that John Bowers from UC Santa Barbara is giving a tutorial talk about silicon photonics integrated circuits. I´m really looking forward to learning about growing quantum dot lasers on silicon. And the last session I´d really like to mention is the one on 3D laser additive micro-manufacturing. Here we´ll have an invited talk of Mangirdas Malinauskas from Lithuania concerning additive manufacturing of glass-ceramics down to nanoscale. All in all, we have a really exciting mix of basic research and applications—which reaches from photonics in next generation renewable energies to attosecond science or optical sensing and microscopy.

Kling: Let me just add two other highlights: We offer twelve short courses, which support students and other interested attendees to learn about a topic outside their main area of expertise—such as ultrashort pulse characterization, frequency comb metrology, fiber optics, silicon photonics or terahertz photonics. And we have introduced two new topics: “Topological States of Light” and “Label-Free techniques for Molecular identification”, which are exploding fields of research. The latter might lead into a future, where it’ll be possible to diagnose cancer by chemical changes using spectroscopy without any fluorescence labels or markers. The availability of non-linear technologies makes it possible to get the information without labels.

For decades you’ve been researching electromagnetic fields and waves, or the modeling and simulation of lasers, optical waveguides and amplifiers, Prof. Benson. Does an expert like you learn anything at conferences like CLEO®/Europe—EQEC?

Benson: Of course I do! A conference of this scale is a bubbling source of knowledge. The great thing about the Congress and the LASER World of PHOTONICS is that you experience the state of the art of our entire industry and research, which develops faster and faster. The focus ranges from material science to emerging topics right through to the application side of it. It’s a great opportunity to learn things and meet all those material and chemical experts, physicists, engineers and end-users that come together in Munich.

What’s your inducement, Prof. Kling?

Kling: If I learn there? For sure! We are living at a time, where machine learning and artificial intelligence is increasingly influencing and accelerating our research. Be it in medical diagnosis, where algorithms help to get the wanted information out of imaging data. Or be it in more fundamental fields like for example the optimization of optical designs and laser beamlines. Already, learning algorithms deliver impressive results that help us solve complex optimization problems. This is one single example, where photonics takes great steps forward with the help of interdisciplinarity. So for all of us it is very important to meet colleagues from other disciplines and learn from each other. Our conference offers great opportunities to do that. I´ll learn in sessions near my own topics, but I also attend session that I do not normally attend. We have to develop common languages, to cooperate more efficiently. Taking over the role of General chair helped me enormously in this regard, and to experience the conference will continue to do so. It is an enormous responsibility, tons of work—but above all really fun and a great privilege!

The LASER World of Photonics and the Congress reflect the innovation in photonics. Which current technology trends do you see as having market-changing potential?

Benson: LiDAR-Technology for autonomous vehicles is certainly one of those. And when we think of the green agenda to tackle climate change, there will be a great need for efficient manufacturing and processing. Machine vision and lasers for manufacturing are central technologies for this. And on the other hand all the healthcare imaging diagnostics have great potential to transform healthcare! Do you agree Matthias?

Kling: I completely agree and would like to add a few emerging technologies. In the field of quantum optics I see great potential for highly secure quantum communications and also quantum computing, solving the dilemma of Moore´s Law in the further course of the nanometer race. In combining the fields of nano-optics and ultrafast photonics we will see major steps in the coming years; in particular for light-based computing. In broadband communication via fibers, computers that digest the optical information into electronic signals are the bottleneck so far. Pure optical solutions can avoid such bottlenecks. Let´s see what the future brings. We’ll likely get a good glimpse already in June in Munich...

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