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Laser 2015: opening ceremony celebrates Year of Light

22 Jun 2015

Laser 2015 conference hears about great opportunities - and great need for photonics worldwide.

The World of Photonics Congress 2015, which accompanies the Laser expo, opened this morning at the ICM at Messe München with a collective celebration of the ongoing International Year of Light.

Among the key presenters’ endorsements of the multiple technical, economic and empowering qualities of photonics technologies, the potential of light to be a force for good in Africa, presented by Dr Yanne Chembo of CNRS and the African Physical Society, seemed to create the greatest interest among the conference attendees.

The audience received an opening welcome from conference chair Professor John Dudley, who is also Chair of the International Year of Light 2015 Steering Committee. Then the key speakers were introduced by Messe München director Dr Reinhard Pfeiffer: Dr Flavia Schlegel, Assistant Director General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO, Wolfgang Boch, Head of the Photonics Unit at the European Commission, Dr Lawrence Goldberg, Senior Engineering Advisor at the National Science Foundation (US), followed by the star performer Dr Chembo.

Dr Chembo gave an impassioned speech about both the need for further development and deployment of photonics-related technologies there as well as an African perspective on the IYOL.

He contrasted the challenges but also the opportunities for photonics technologies in the vast continent of Africa. “Some of the key numbers about Africa are as follows: A continent of 1.1 billion inhabitants but where 50% of the population lives below the poverty line; life expectancy is below 60 years and significant proportion of the population is struggling with basic issues.

“But on the other hand there are a lot of African indicators that are actually very positive. The African middle class numbers 300 million, who are becoming richer. Also, 70% of Africans are below 25 years of age – it’s a very young population. One quarter of all international investment is now made in Africa and the continent as a whole has a 7% GDP growth per year. It has tremendous potential.”

African opportunities

So what can be the impact of photonics in Africa? In brief, the main opportunities for photonics across Africa, outlined by Dr Chembo, are as follow:

  • Optical telecoms which can be linked to more than 20% of the continent’s economy; there are more mobile phone in Africa than t here are Africans and it’s the second largest continental market in the world after Asia.
  • Solar energy Although 70% of sub-Saharan Africans do not currently have access to electricity, the rate of growth of solar energy production is 60% per year and in 2014, Africa’s total PV output was more than 300 MW.
  • Healthcare Key photonics applications are in purification of water, affordable spectacles and imaging systems such as in X-ray, MRI and tomography.
  • Research and traininghis is strongly needed for the continent to be able to exploit the full potential of photonics.

Expanded show

Also, during the opening ceremony, Messe München director Dr Reinhard Pfeiffer explained how the exhibition and conference parts of the expo have grown once more, “This year the Laser World of Photonics fair is offering new shows dedicated to the automobile industry and for 3D printing. We are hosting more than 1320 exhibiting companies, which is an increase of more than 100 over 2013. Exhibitors now come from 41 countries, and 60% of them are from outside of Germany. For the first time the Laser trade fair will cover a total area of 55,000 m2 in five halls.

“In 2015, there are new key areas of interest such as the Start-up Zone in hall B3 and there are new special industry focuses on automotive applications of photonics and 3D printing. The WOP congress is also growing: more than 2700 lectures will be given this week, so the congress has now assumed enormous proportions.”

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

Mad City Labs, Inc.ECOPTIKCeNing Optics Co LtdOptikos Corporation TRIOPTICS GmbHHyperion OpticsLASEROPTIK GmbH
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