[Image above] Credit: Placbo; Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Last year, I proclaimed 2014 the year of wearables.

This year, I think it’s safe to say that 2015 is the year of light—only difference being, this time around, it’s not just me who’s saying it.

The 68th session of the United National General Assembly declared 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015)—a global initiative to spread awareness of the ways optical technologies promote sustainability and address growing global challenges concerning energy, health, and more.

According to the IYL 2015 website, “This International Year has been the initiative of a large consortium of scientific bodies together with UNESCO and will bring together many different stakeholders including scientific societies and unions, educational institutions, technology platforms, non-profit organizations, and private sector partners. In proclaiming an International Year focusing on the topic of light science and its applications, the United Nations has recognized the importance of raising global awareness about how light-based technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health. Light plays a vital role in our daily lives and is an imperative cross-cutting discipline of science in the 21st century. It has revolutionized medicine, opened up international communication via the Internet, and continues to be central to linking cultural, economic, and political aspects of the global society.”

The website offers a lot of great resources on photonics and its impact on energy, economy, and the connected world—as well as a jam-packed international schedule of events designed to promote light and light-based technologies.

Many of these modern-day technologies are an integral part of the work being done at Clemson University’s Advanced Materials Research Lab and Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET), headed by ACerS member and Fellow John Ballato. (Several other members, including Fei Peng and current ACerS president Kathleen Richardson, also are COMSET faculty.)

According to the university, Clemson is “uniquely positioned to support the research, workforce development, and outreach needs of the light-based technology industry.” It is that day-to-day training of tomorrow’s technology workers that a year of celebration becomes a more immediate, moment-to-moment party for all.

“While we celebrate 2015 as the International Year of Light, in reality, every second of every day is a celebration of light,” Ballato says in an email. “From the lights that illuminate the room, to the displays on our smart phones and computer screens, to the bits of light that speed through an optical fiber enabling global communications and e-commerce, light is ubiquitous and necessary. And, like any technology, the needs of tomorrow rapidly surpass the successes of today and so continued innovation is always essential.”

“Clemson’s small piece of this $7.5-trillion annual global economic engine focuses on enabling materials and optical fibers—their compositions, their structures, their performance, their applications, and, most importantly, their use as tools to train the next generation of pioneers,” he adds.

Start the International Year of Light off right: Take 3:03 to watch the video below, which provides an inside look at the work happening in Clemson labs and the university’s daily efforts to celebrate light. 

Credit: Clemson University; YouTube