The technology of generating and using light and other radiant energy forms, photonics is best known for fiber-optic communications, but its potential in a wide range of fields of applied science is vast: From diagnosing cancer without a biopsy to detecting bioterrorism. Researchers also use photonics to explore areas such as plant photosynthesis to advance basic scientific knowledge.

Photonics was chosen as an ASRC flagship initiative because it has become a strength for CUNY—an area that has been expanded over the last several years through the University’s “cluster hiring” initiative in the sciences—and because it offers unusual potential for collaboration across disciplines.

Photonics research encompasses biology, medicine, physics and technology fields such as computer display and lighting, as well as the futuristic fields of quantum information processing and quantum encryption, in which data reside on single photons, which are to light what electrons are to electricity.

Vinod Menon, professor of physics at City College and Director of CUNY’s Center for Advanced Technology in Photonics Applications, joined the University as one of its “cluster hires” in photonics and has quickly established himself at the forefront of CUNY’s emerging strength in the field. “You design materials that do not exist in nature,” he says, “and you send light through them, and the light behaves in the way you want it to. Or you design a medium so that the light changes the properties of the material, such as by switching between transparent and reflective.”

Dr. Menon eagerly anticipates using the ASRC’s cleanroom and advanced imaging equipment to create new devices and techniques such as the flexible lasers he has developed for use in a light-emitting bandage that accelerates wound-healing.