e-EPS News: Light for Development

e-EPS News is a monthly addition to the CERN Bulletin line-up, showcasing articles by the e-EPS – the European Physical Society newsletter – as part of a collaboration between the two publications.


A central goal of the EPS International Year of Light project will be to promote optical technologies and optics education to improve the quality of life in the developing world – under the theme of ‘Light for Development’.

Light plays a central role in human activities in science, technology and culture. On a fundamental scientific level, light is necessary for the existence of life itself, whilst on a more technical level, light-based technologies will underpin the future development of human society.

The systematic study of the physics of light and electromagnetic waves has been central to the evolution of modern science and – in the 20th century alone – there have been many fundamental advances, and Nobel Prizes, linked with the studies of atomic physics, optics, lasers and so on.

Light-based technologies have revolutionized medicine, have opened up international communication via the Internet and continue to be central in linking cultural and political aspects of the global society. Moreover, advances in lighting and solar energy will be crucial for future sustainable development.

Scientists and educators are, of course, well aware of the tremendous importance of optical science and technology for future international development, but it is essential that this message is communicated more widely. It is precisely this need which has motivated the EPS project for the declaration of an International Year of Light under the auspices of the United Nations.

A central component of the International Year of Light project is the theme of Light for Development, focusing specifically on how the science of light can improve the quality of life in the developing world and in emerging economies.

Within this theme, the EPS will coordinate, and work with, international partners to promote the implementation of technologies such as clean and energy-efficient lighting, solar power and practical photonic devices for applications such as environmental monitoring, malaria diagnosis water purification and spectroscopy; and in agriculture.

The possibility for low cost deployment and miniaturization of these technologies builds upon many recent advances in photonics, in areas such as the development of LED sources, versatile detection systems, sensors and so on.

These practical aims will be complemented by global activities in education and outreach, focusing especially on optics education in emerging and developing nations, and mechanisms for building worldwide educational capacity through outreach activities focused on scientific activities for young people and students of all ages.

The Year of Light project will be officially launched during the joint EPS-Italian Physical Society Passion for Light workshop in Varenna, Italy on Friday, September 16th, 2011.

by e-EPS