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Photonics – better known as the science and technology of light – involves the applied and fundamental research of photons and interaction between light and matter. VUB B-PHOT uses the unique properties of light for the development of novel technologies and applications that answer global challenges in domains as healthcare, aerospace, telecommunications, sustainable energy, mobility, food safety or manufacturing for industry 4.0.  In fact, we use photonics already every day: think 3D applications, screens of any kind, smartphones, TVs, WiFi becoming LiFi thanks to optical fibres, smart cars… 


B-PHOT at the VUB

The VUB’s Photonics team, B-PHOT, with 40 researchers under the leadership of Professor Hugo Thienpont, is active in the field of micro-miniaturised photonics. The strategic approach in research and development in optics and photonics over the past 25 years, has allowed B-PHOT to implement unique technology platforms and infrastructure that support a complete value chain from material to proof-of-concept prototyping. B-PHOT supports partners and companies with research expertise in biophotonics, freeform optics, integrated photonics, micro lasers, optical fibre sensors and optical spectroscopy.


VUB B-PHOT is currently among the world leaders in optical modelling, optical characterisation, low-cost rapid prototyping, and proof-of-concept demonstrations of micro-optical modules and micro-photonic systems.


The centre has collaboration agreements in fundamental, strategic, applied and industrial research with top level research groups in Europe, the US, ​Japan, Australia and Asia​.​


Ready to shine with a European Master of Science in Photonics from VUB

Photonics has been named by the European Commission as one of the key enabling technologies of the 21st Century, so unsurprisingly it is one of the most sought after master of science degrees out there. The VUB offers a European Master of Science in Photonics, in partnership with UGent, for students who are looking for a challenging programme and a professional career in innovative industry areas that are at the forefront of pushing boundaries in research.


The VUB was one of the founders of the first Master of Photonics on the European continent. This multidisciplinary and very hands-on programme covers elements from electronics, physics and engineering, with micro and nanotechnology, and allows students to broaden their knowledge in areas such as ICT, biosciences, physics and chemistry. The link with industry through internships and networking is very valued among students, as is the opportunity to choose one of the four international tracks with exchange programmes. More information on this course can be found here. Deadline for applications for EEA students who don’t require a visa is 1 June 2017.


An example of photonics applied to everyday life: chips

Earlier in 2017 several news reports came out saying how cooking especially starch-rich foods at high temperatures (e.g. exceeding 120°C) can be carcinogenic. Photonics researcher Lien Smeesters reassured those who want their chips to be golden brown – they are not per se carcinogenic! In fact, the formed acrylamide content depends on the type of potato used and on the starch, water and reduction of sugar concentration in the raw potatoes. The VUB B-PHOT team developed an accurate optical detection technique which allowed the prediction of acrylamide formation during the frying process of potatoes. Suitable potatoes emit a different light signal than unsuitable ones. The technology with laser beams selects the right potatoes to make chips and to avoid the development of acrylamide. So, light to the rescue of healthy chips! More information on this research can be found here.


The launch of PHABLABS 4.0 – inspiring young minds through the mysteries of photonics across Europe

The idea behind PHABLABS 4.0 is to let children as young as 10 all the way through to young professionals and technicians (ages 18 and over) experiment with the technology of light through the dynamic network of FabLabs. The European project is developing several tailored Photonics Workshops and Challenger Projects to enable youngsters to make their creative ideas come to life.


For this project, supported among others by Horizon2020 and Photonics21, 13 partners with expertise in photonics will join forces with 14 pilot FabLabs, all coordinated by VUB B-PHOT.


During the start-up phase, 3,000 young minds will have the chance to experiment in the PHABLABS 4.0 modules. The project is set to inspire some 18,000 youngsters in its first 3 years and to develop their interest in photonics, STEM (Science Technology Engineering Maths) education and engineering jobs in the future.


Photonics has a bright future – that much is clear (pun intended).


The full story on PHABLABS 4.0 can be found here


Explore B-PHOTs top notch Photonics Innovation Center close to Brussels, and the power of photonics in the video below

Photonics Innovation Center