10. February 2015
No technology is more widely used, embraced, and relied upon than light technology. From household lighting to lighting in displays to high-powered telescopes to durable medical devices, light has played a key role in the developments and advancements of the modern world.
To celebrate the many uses of light and light-based technology, the United Nations designated 2015 as the Year of Light. This global initiative aims to raise awareness of how light technologies can help solve the biggest problems of the 21st century and promote sustainable development.
The International Year of Light celebrates light-based technologies.
Chief among these technologies is glass. In countless applications, glass and light work in tandem to illuminate our world. Both are powerful forces alone, but together they can help us answer complex and difficult questions. Together, they spark our curiosity and produce insights that advance medicine, technology, and entertainment.
Here are just a few ways modern light and light-based technologies play a crucial role in today’s world.
Staying healthy with light technology: Medical professionals use endoscopes equipped with lighting technologies to see inside the human body’s organs and joints. While early endoscopes were illuminated by candlelight, modern endoscopes use fiber optic lighting cables (or bundles) to illuminate an area of the body to examine a patient’s lungs, colon, knees, and more. These lighting bundles have approximately 4,000 glass fibers, each measuring 50 microns thick, which is thinner than a human hair (approximately 100 microns). Each individual fiber is glass, and when bundled together they assist doctors and nurses in diagnosing and treating a wide array of ailments.
Exploring space by harnessing light: Telescopes equipped with massive glass-ceramic mirrors allow researchers to gaze into our own solar system as well as far away celestial bodies light years in the past. In addition, a variety of optical, infrared, and radiation-resistant glasses, among others, allow satellites and telescopes to capture a whole spectrum of images of planets, moons, and stars near and far from Earth. Thanks to these advanced camera systems, we’ve been able to investigate Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko up close with specialty lenses, and document Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the lunar surface using a camera with optical glass.
Keeping the warfighter safe on the battlefield: The fog of war clouds a warfighter’s situational awareness, but light technologies help members of the Armed Forces better understand and react to their environment. Night vision goggles, manufactured with high tech glass, infrared filters, and fiber optics, permit Soldiers to carry out their missions without the help of visible light. For pilots, tank personnel, and infantry on the ground, fiber optics built into control panels and helmets provide clear and precise light that assists them on missions. Multi-spectral optics, which focus light of different wavelengths together into one optical path, are at the forefront of enhancing situational awareness on military ships and vehicles with improved size, weight, and power (SWaP) when compared to lighting and optical systems developed a generation ago.
Project Night Night.
Lighting up the set in show biz: Capitalizing on the same principles that scientists use when building telescopes, Hollywood relies on light to create the images we see on the big screen. Today, digital cameras convert incoming light rays into electrical signals, and those signals later get translated into images we can recognize. High-quality optical glasses can better filter light to create vibrant colors, crystal-clear pictures, and incredible depths, which produce a picture favored by Hollywood directors and worthy of Oscar consideration. Simply put, without the glass to bend incoming light, there’s no lights, camera, or action.
Creating a different kind of light
As a way to celebrate the Year of Light, SCHOTT Advanced Optics is partnering with Project Night Night, a San Francisco-based charity, to raise money at the SPIE Photonics West Conference. This partnership highlights the importance of providing a source of light for children, especially at night, when life can seem darkest.
The Year of Light celebrates the many lighting advancements that improve our daily lives, and encourages all of us to continue finding ways to enhance those technologies. In 2015, organizations like SCHOTT and countless others will continue searching for new solutions to challenges in communications, health, space exploration, defense, and beyond.