Educational Workshop at the NTUA for the celebration of the International Day of Light

On Wednesday, May the 16th, an educational workshop for the celebration of International Day of Light was held at the National Technical University of Athens. The event was organized by the Photonics Communications Research Laboratory (PCRL) of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, which is UNESCO’s national node for the activities related to this international celebration.

The International Day of Light is a global annual initiative with focal point on light and its role in science, culture, art, education, sustainable development, as well as in diverse fields such as medicine, communications, and energy. The celebration is an opportunity for the citizens and the society to be informed on the broad spectrum of light applications and technologies and participate in activities that demonstrate the capabilities of light in every-day-life activities towards a world of education, equality, and peace, which are UNESCO's ultimate objectives.

The educational workshop addressed high-school students interested in following science and technology domain for their studies, aiming to inform the young audience about the prospects offered by the rapidly developing fields of photonics and light technologies.

(Professor Hercules Avramopoulos)

The event opened the head of the Photonic Communications Laboratory, Professor Hercules Avramopoulos, with a brief introduction on the International Day of Light and its objectives. The workshop comprised the following presentations given by the invited key-note speakers of the event:

1. "Planetarium and Light: A Love and Hate Relationship!" - Dr. Manos Kitsonas, Director of the New Digital Planetarium of the Eugenides Foundation.

(Dr. Manos Kitsonas)

Mr. Kitsonas spoke of two seemingly conflicting but equally necessary preconditions that a planetarium must meet in order to properly portray the space that surrounds us: sufficient light and darkness at the same time! The solution to this requirement is offered by the state-of-the-art projection systems with spectacular results achieved through a long term and continuous development track.

2. "Hybrid Photonic Integrated Circuits with applications from Communications to Medicine" - David de Felipe, Researcher at Fraunhofer (Europe's largest research institute).

(David de Felipe)

During his talk, Mr. Felipe presented the whole "spectrum" of modern day-to-day applications based on photonics technologies, such as 5G wireless communications, broadband internet communications, datacenter interconnections, sensor systems, etc. The presentation highlighted the revolutionary break-throughs brought by the development of photonic integrated circuits in all these applications, similarly to the radical developments that occurred with the emergence of electronic chips some decades ago.

3. "Shining light to data!" - Dr. George Kanellos, Lecturer at Bristol University and alumni of the Photonic Communications Research Laboratory of NTUA.

(Dr. George Kanellos)

The presentation focused on the development of optical communications and photonics technologies over the past 20 years and their essential contribution to the growth and maturation of the web-based information world we experience today, having modern visual networks and datacenters as its backbone. It is the same technology that is expected to play a key role in the "Internet of Things" (with direct application to smart cities and autonomous vehicles) and optical quantum computers in the near future.

4. "Light and the detection of messages from the creation of the Universe" - Dr. Sofoklis Sotiriou, Head of Research and Development in Greek-German high-school.

(Dr. Sofoklis Sotiriou)

Dr. Sotiriou spoke about the pursuit of modern science to discover new modalities to "look" as far as possible in the Universe. In this quest, the solution comes back to light by developing advanced probes based onoptical detectors of neutrinos, particles able to penetrate matter as easily as light passes through the glass. With such probes, the astronomy of neutrinos was enabled allowing the scientists to record universal events that have occurred hundreds of thousands of light years away from Earth. Moreover, just in 2017, optical technology (through a sophisticated laser interferometer) made feasible the detection of gravitational waves caused by cosmic collisions of enormous celestial bodies.

After the lectures, a reception followed where attendees had the opportunity to continue the interesting discussions.

We would like to thank the Institute of Communication and Computer Systems (ICCS) of the School of ECE of the NTUA for contributing to the successful completion of the event.

(From left to right: Professor Hercules Avramopoulos, Emeritus Professor Yannis Vassiliou)