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Nobel Laureates Descend on UC Santa Barbara to Celebrate Light

Symposium on light-based technology honors 2015 as International Year of Light

Nobel Laureate Alan Heeger, who’s a professor of physics & materials at UCSB, was one of four Nobel Prize winners present during the International Year of the Light symposium on campus Thursday.
Nobel Laureate Alan Heeger, who’s a professor of physics & materials at UCSB, was one of four Nobel Prize winners present during the International Year of the Light symposium on campus Thursday.      (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Light and all the ways it has revolutionized our lives was the cornerstone of a summit at UC Santa Barbara Thursday, where four Nobel Laureates converged to celebrate the advances.

As a world leader in light-based technology, UCSB had three of the Nobel Prize winners on faculty — all but Steve Chu, the former U.S. Secretary of Energy who won the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics.

A crowd gathered for the free day-long symposium at Corwin Pavilion to mark the International Year of Light, a designation given to 2015 by the United Nations in hopes of recognizing the world’s light-related scientific and technological advances.

“We use it even when it’s not shining,” UCSB chemistry and materials professor Gui Bazan said, leading one of four hour-long sessions.

“No matter where you go or what you do you will always have to deal with light.”

He pulled an iPhone and sunglasses from his suit jacket pockets, saying the glasses were for “light management.”

Communication, medicine, politics and economics — you name it, and groundbreaking light technology research has left an impact.

Alan Heeger, a UCSB physics and materials professor and winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in chemistry, explained how plastic LED has made its way into light technology, specifically solar.

Plastic solar cells on panels generate energy will also saving it, he said, since you can use less air conditioning. More lightweight solar plates have also found their way onto parking lot carports.

It was an afternoon of diagrams, equations and formulas, with Stanford University physics professor Eva Silverstein touching on quantum gravity and early universe physics.

Bill Parrish, founder and chief technology officer of Santa Barbara’s Seek Thermal, said his goal has been to introduce infrared cameras to everyday consumers.

“Basically everything we have in this world gives off light,” Parrish said. “The hotter is it, the brighter.”

He said the heat — like that of a stovetop burner — gives off energy, which is what thermal imaging lets people see with its devices. Consumers can see where energy leaks from a house with imaging, for example.

And those devices are gradually getting smaller, stronger and less expensive.

“This technology is here,” Parrish said, and, “it will be part of our lives.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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