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The University of Southampton

New European project shines a light on the importance of Photonics

Published: 30 April 2015

The University of Southampton is marking the 2015 International Year of Light, by taking part in a new project to help people and businesses throughout Europe understand the importance of photonics, the science of light.

Photonics plays a crucial role in many global industries such as lighting, telecommunications, medicine and manufacturing. We rely on lightbulbs and LEDs in our homes and lasers enable us to talk on the phone and use the Internet. In industry, lasers cut and burn the most delicate and strongest of materials with precision and power and lasers and optics are widely used in surgeries and medical imaging applications.

The two-year Photonics4All outreach project, funded by the European Commission, will involve 10 partners from nine European countries, including Physics and Astronomy and the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton.

It aims to raise awareness of the importance of photonics and make it accessible to the general public, students, young people, business and industry through a variety of activities and events including business innovation workshops, start-up challenges and a ‘Photonics Science Slam’. For young people and students, there will be a photonics quiz, a photonics app, business boot camps and a Schools Photonics Day aimed at promoting the study of Physics and Optics.

Pearl John, Public Engagement Leader for Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southampton, says: “It’s very exciting to be working on this innovative project and to be able to learn from partners throughout Europe. I am particularly interested in promoting women in photonics and it’s great to play such an important role in getting the message out across the EU to ensure that we really are promoting Photonics4All.”

In Southampton, the University will be collaborating with the South East Photonics Network (SEPNET) which aims to address the skills shortage in the photonics industry in the region. Schools and colleges will be offered the opportunity to take part in hands-on photonics activities to teach pupils about the crucial role photonics plays in everyday life and inspire them to study it further. University students will also be encouraged to consider ways in which they can use photonics in business.

Pearl adds: “We aim to increase awareness of the local photonics industries, help leverage our collective knowledge and uncover more photonics applications making it easier for organisations to develop new products and access this key enabling technology.”

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