Optics is the physical science that studies the origin and propagation of light, how it changes, what effects it produces, and other phenomena associated with it. This "Optics Timeline" highlights important events and developments in the science of optics from prehistory to the beginning of the 21st century. It also includes related developments in other fields and related milestones in the human worldview.
John Hall & Theodor Hansch
Optical Frequency Comb Technique research, which is a precise way to measure frequency. Advances in ultrafast lasers make this technique the most accurate way to measure high frequencies known at this time.
Zhores I. Alferov and Herbert Kroemer
Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for basic work on information and communication technology," that is, "for developing semiconductor heterostructures used in high-speed- and opto-electronics."
Eric Cornell, Carl Wieman, Wolfgang Ketterie
Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for the early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates." Bose Einstein condensates were realized in 1995.
Developed the first pill sized endoscopic capsul with a camera.
Concept of an optical clock demonstrated, with the use of an optical frequency comb. Optical clocks are expected to be 100 times more accurate than today's atomic clocks.
Terahertz pioneering contributions to free-space terahertz optics. Terahertz waves are in the far infrared band and have frequencies between 0.3 and 3 trillion Hz.
Researchers at Harvard
Stop and store light in vapor
Researchers at MIT
Stop and store light in a solid material
Team at the University of Rochester
“Slow” and “fast” light created in an'alexandrite crystal at room temperature for the first time. Light travels in vacuum at 300 million meters per second, but in this crystal it was slowed to 91 metres per second, and a laser pulse was sped up to go faster than the speed of light, seeming to leave the crystal before it entered it.
Lukas Novotny from the University of Rochester and colleagues from Portland State University and the University of Harvard
Photocurable nanoimprint lithography can produce features 7 nm wide with a pitch of only 14 nm. This can be in the process of creating components on circuit boards.
Roy J. Glauber, John L. Hall, Theodor W. Hansch
Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, including the optical frequency comb technique developed in 2000.
Optics researchers in Canada
Liquid-crystal lens with a focal length that can be adjusted by applying a voltage. The lens, which is flat, could have applications in mobile phones, laser cavities and surveillance equipment.
Albert Le Floch and colleagues at the University of Rennes in France
Measured for the first time the length of time that light spends outside a piece of glass when it undergoes total internal reflection, which is called a Wigner delay.
Scientists at EPFL in Switzerland
Devise a clever way to control the speed at which pulses travel along an optical fibre.
Jenoptik Laserdiode, Germany
Fabricates a high-powere laser diode bar that emits a record-breaking 454 W of continuous-wave infrared (940 nm) light.
Xiang Zhang, University of California-Berkeley, & group
Developed an optical superlens that has a resolution of 60 nm. The best traditional opticla microscopes can do no better than a resolution of 400 nm. This technology may revolutionize the fields of optical imaging, lithography, as well as high density data storage.
Created a chip containing eight continuous Raman lasers by using fairly standard silicon processes rather than the somewhat expensive materials and processes required for making lasers today.
2005 Optics researchers in Canada
First adjustable lens realized. The first such lens was described in Appl Optics in 1984 by Steven Kowel and colleagues.