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  • SPIE Optical Systems Design

    Optical system design is not only a key enabling technology (as politicians call it), but a vital and rapidly growing field of applied research. And this is what one can see and feel here at the SPIE Optical Systems Design conference in Marseille. This meeting unites several sub-conferences, namely Optical Design and Engineering IV, Detectors and Associated Signal Processing IV, Advances in Optical Thin Films IV, Optical Fabrication, Testing, and Metrology IVIllumination Optics II, Physical Optics  and Optical Complex Systems: OCS11. The last two, as the number suggest, participate for the first time. According to the organizer, 400 attendees are expected.

    Optics has a long history, most historical discussions start several hundred years ago. Nevertheless, it makes substantial progress in several fields also today and it is still growing. The plenary presentations this morning were showing some of the most relevant topics: The first one (Optical Tools for Biophotonic Applications , Hervé Rigneault) dealt with new methods to improve the old method of microscopy beyond the resolution limits and beyond the limits set by markers. The second one (Atmospheric Coherent Pulsed Doppler 1.5µm Wind Lidar, Rémy Parmentier) gave an introduction on optical technology that can deliver a substantial support for the wind power generation.

    So far it was a quite exciting morning, but certainly, the third plenary draw the most attention among the optic experts: Willi Ulrich from ZEISS spoke on „Freeform Surfaces: Hype or Handy Design Tool?„. Freeform surfaces are almost arbitrary shaped optical  elements which give up on any rotational symmetry. It seems challenging to optimize them, but the benefits are tremendous: Freeform surfaces allow for extreme off-axis optical systems such as head-mounted displays or head-up displays in cars. For more conventional optical systems it may provide cost, weight and size reducing solutions. It is amazing, that many free form solutions were developed and discussed in the sixties and seventies of the twentieth century – without the massive computing power available today. Now that this technology is available and the tasks for optical systems designer become more and more challenging the topic of free form surfaces become really hot. As the presenter showed, the numbers of scientific publications and patent filings are growing almost exponentially – and this seems to continue for a foreseeable future.

    This was an excellent start for the conference, more is coming soon here under the Mediterranean sun of the French Provence.