Hi everyone, we are a team of Photonics scientists and enthusiasts at EPIC, the largest photonics organisation in the world. Photonics is the key enabling technology powering lasers, fiber optics, cameras, sensors, imaging, photovoltaic solar energy and much more.

We don’t understand why a word like “photophobia” (fear of light) is Google searched more than Photonics, the science of light. So we hope this AMA will introduce a few more people to the wonders of Photonics technologies.

So that we cover all time zones, we’ll be answering questions from 6pm CET (Brussels) / 12pm ET (US east coast) on 20 October and will check back regularly until 6am CET / 12am ET on 22 October.

We’re new to Reddit, so please be gentle with us ;)

UPDATE 3: Thanks for all your questions, we are blown away! Thank you to u/Jamolnng and others for some great answers to many of the questions. See you again for next year's Day of Photonics!

EPIC website: https://www.epic-assoc.com/about-epic/

This is us:

Antonio Raspa, MSc. In Electrical Engineering, Quantum Electronics (Photonics) https://www.linkedin.com/in/antonio-raspa/

Elena Beletkaia, PhD, Molecular Biophysics. Specialist, Biophysics https://www.linkedin.com/in/ebeletkaia/

Francesca Moglia, PhD, Laser Physics. Master’s Degree, Physics https://www.linkedin.com/in/francesca-moglia/

Jose Pozo, PhD Electrical Engineering. MsC, Telecommunication Engineering https://www.linkedin.com/in/josepozoepic/

Panagiotis Vergyris, PhD, Quantum Optics-Quantum Information. Master’s Degree, Microsystems & Nanodevices https://www.linkedin.com/in/panagiotis-vergyris/

Carlos Lee, Director General of EPIC, the European Photonics Industry Consortium https://www.linkedin.com/in/carloslee/

PROOF: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vWdx9GgbOtXw2XXPJIw1gHFAwESBTWAM/view?usp=sharing

Comments: 210 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

borderex30 karma

How close are we to photonic circuitry for computing? I know that IBM was working this and a University in the US made some strides as well (I think it was a special processor), but I haven't seen any new information in the last few years.

carlosleephotonics2 karma

Silicon Photonic Circuits are already used as transceivers for High Power Computing. However, the next step is all optical computing, and for that, we need programmable Photonic chips, that could perform different basic optical functions. On that topic, early work has been done by the companies Xanadu, IPronics, and thr R&D center IMEC, among others. We expect the first optical processors based on programmable photonic integrated circuits to be in the market within half a decade.

Sigmachi78919 karma

Particle or wave ?

carlosleephotonics19 karma


young1grasshopper11 karma

How did you start an organization with a focus on photonics? As you’ve said, it’s not very mainstream, so how did this come to be?

carlosleephotonics8 karma

EPIC, the European Photonics Industry Consortium, was created in 2003 when after the telecoms crash, the founder Tom Pearsall, noticed a whole community of companies going bankrupt and people losing their jobs, and there was no umbrella organization representing specifically this community "photonics". Ironically Tom Pearsall is an American and he created the European association.

workingatbeingbetter6 karma

What are your thoughts on low-cost substitutes for LIDAR and other sensing technologies, such as episcan (epipolar scanning), epiTOF, and programmable triangulation light curtains? (more found here)

One of the current issues with effectively commercializing autonomous vehicles is the high cost of certain components (e.g., LIDAR sensors) and the technologies above seem to solve those issues for many applications. From an engineer’s perspective, how quickly do you think these types of technologies will be adopted by industry?

carlosleephotonics4 karma

Excellent question! Nowadays there are different technologies that might be able to give solutions towards affordable autonomous vehicles. Some of them are among the ones you mentioned. Have you seen this video from EPIC?

FessJaulkner6 karma

What's the latest exciting development in photonic science?

jamolnng4 karma

I'm particularly biased towards my research group but new kinds of infrared detectors are being developed

carlosleephotonics1 karma

Photonic science could revolutionize technological development in many fields and in different ways. What about quantum photonics?

gunpowderkeg5 karma

Is a real "Lightsaber" from Star Wars possible?

carlosleephotonics1 karma

Unsurprisingly this light saber video got 34 million views https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xC6J4T\_hUKg

manVsPhD2 karma

As a photonics researcher entering his last year of the PhD, got any resources for looking for jobs in photonics?

carlosleephotonics1 karma

You could use jobsinphotonics.com to brows for opportunities

SnooRabbits23942 karma

Why can't anything move faster than the speed of light?

carlosleephotonics2 karma

If you look at the equations which are at the core of Einstein's theories of relativity, you find that as you approach the speed of light, your spatial dimension in the forward direction shrinks down to nothing and your clock slows to a stop. A reference frame with zero width and with no progression in time is really a reference frame that does not exist. Therefore, this tells us that nothing can ever go faster than the speed of light, for the simple reason that space and time do not actually exist beyond this point.

dontgoforthe12 karma

SLR sensors have improved dramatically in the last few years allowing low-noise photos and video that was never possible before. Have we reached the pinnacle of low-light image capture or is there room for improvement yet?

carlosleephotonics1 karma

We think there is still room for improvement. Most current low light cameras are operating at ambient light conditions under 1 lux of light flux, but there are sensors in the development to be operating at 1 mlx

Working_Sundae2 karma

When are Photonic “transistors” going to replace electronic transistors?

carlosleephotonics0 karma

What do you think of this video? "Beating Moore's Law: This photonic computer is 10X faster than NVIDIA GPUs using 90% less energy". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1R7ElXEyag

Crayon_Casserole1 karma

Do you think it could be possible for organisms to live in a light wave?

(Be s tricky one to test, obviously.)

carlosleephotonics1 karma

not really

tomdarch1 karma

Are you familiar with any current applications of liquid crystal variable lenses? (Several patents for VR/AR headsets mention this technology to improve user experience versus the current use of non-variable lenses. On one hand, switchable liquid crystal lens technology appears to have been around for more than a decade, but there aren't a lot of actual applications that I can find.)

carlosleephotonics2 karma

Liquid crystal variable lenses are not yet widely commercially adopted. It is being widely researched for ophthalmological applications, 3D vision applications, beam steering, tunable zooming, aberration correctors, astronomy, multi-optical elements, frequency controlled micro-lenses and many others

ironappleseed1 karma

Is there anything exciting currently happening in your fields in regards to optical coatings?

carlosleephotonics2 karma

Optical coating and filter were the fore-front technologies in the past year enabling all the qPCR machines used for COVID testing. We believe it is exciting

iamsolarpowered1 karma


carlosleephotonics8 karma

21 October is a good date for Day of Photonics, because 21 October 1983 is when the general assembly of general weight and measure approved the speed of light.

Poultrys1 karma


carlosleephotonics1 karma

I would google "Photonics" + a topic that is of personal interest to you? What do you care about? Photonics is everywhere! If you are not satisfied with your google search results let me know!

sim04ful1 karma

Could light be used in mainstream processors one day ? What would be the benefits if so ?

carlosleephotonics2 karma

Have you seen this video? "Beating Moore's Law: This photonic computer is 10X faster than NVIDIA GPUs using 90% less energy". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1R7ElXEyag

Yellowhello691 karma

If you shoot a single photon in a dark room, can multiple people see it and if so, why?

carlosleephotonics1 karma

Let's assume (1) that human eye is sensitive enough to see a single photon and (2) that the photon will reach the eye before it is absorbed by other matter, than this photon will be absorbed by rhodopsin (light receptor in the eye) to trigger the chain of biochemical reactions to send signal to brain notifying it that you see

espero1 karma

Whats your favourite? Lasers or masers?

carlosleephotonics2 karma

We believe that both are equally important. Laser technologies currently have a wider range of applications, however Masers are enabling some of the most critical functions for space industry.

Max-Ray1 karma

Do you guys get called on by space agencies to solve energy issues for new satellites?

carlosleephotonics1 karma

ESA iss EPIC member are we are have strong relationship with the agency to support their projects and technological needs. We are also in touch with other space agencies and companies and we support them in finding solutions for challenges ranging from LiDAR technology to space communication, PV, etc

Fake_William_Shatner1 karma

Is there a limit to how many discrete photons can be in a given space?

carlosleephotonics1 karma

There is no real limit, but eventually the energy density will get high enough that a black hole will be formed

chaoko991 karma

I remember reading about photons being produced in a solid form at one point a few years ago. What are the properties of those masses? Do they have mass?

carlosleephotonics1 karma

Likely you are referring to work of Mikhail Lukin and MIT Professor of Physics Vladan Vuletic. They did not reach solid form yet but molecule-like behaviour of 2 photons.
Photons do not have a mass.