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Published on-line at 05:09:51 PM on Monday, March 4th, 2013

Disordered photonics: Italian excellence on Nature's cover


Nature Photonics' special issue dedicated to photonics disorder states in March the Italian excellence in the field, with a review of Prof. Diederik Wiersma.

What do lotus flowers have in common with human bones, liquid crystals with colloidal suspensions, and white beetles with the beautiful stones of the Taj Mahal? The answer is they all feature disordered structures that strongly scatter light.

Understanding the details of this interaction at a fundamental level and how to use them to develop new materials is the goal of a promising discipline, disordered photonics, that has in Italy some of the world's leading experts as this broad article by Prof. Diederik S. Wiersma, director of the European Laboratory for Non-linear Spectroscopy (University of Florence) of Sesto Fiorentino, researcher at the CNR-INO and leader of the Photonics group, demonstrates.

Photograph of the speckle pattern created by a random medium.

Outlining the history of the last decade of advances in photonics, Prof. Wiersma explains that "from the first studies on disorder in the field of condensed matter physics, we have gone from questions about the fundamental nature of the disorder to take advantage of the disorder itself for new technology applications". In electronics and opto-electronics, for example, or in medicine through innovative imaging techniques of tissues such as internal organs and walls of blood vessels, in biology and zoology with the study of adaptation strategies related to mimesis, in the energy as regards the exploitation of solar energy through new photovoltaic panels, in the field of lighting with the design of innovative high-efficiency light sources.

Huge strides have been made in recent years in this discipline and high expectations are placed in next developments: "Photonics disorder is an adventure that has seen many Italian research groups and organizations as absolute protagonists, such as the LENS, the University of Florence and the CNR-INO", said prof. Wiersma, "in this respect, perfectly able to attract brilliant minds from abroad and offer them the right environment to push further and further the boundaries of knowledge, with an eye to the fundamental science and the other to possible technological applications".

Source: Nature Photonics

  • Title:
  • Disordered photonics
  • Authors:
  • Wiersma DS
  • Source: