Organizing a conference in a peaceful oasis in the middle of the desert on west of the Dead Sea may seem a little inappropriate or counter-productive. But take hundreds of physics experts and force them to literally live together for an entire week and you will get one of the biggest networking opportunities of your scientific career.
Duke University’s ECE post-doc Cristian Ciracì was recently invited to Israel to start a joint research project in nonlinear plasmonics with Yonatan Sivan, Professor at the Faculty of Engineering Sciences of Ben-Gurion University, and to attend FRISNO12 (European/French-Israeli Symposium on Non-linear and Quantum Optics), a biannual symposium that brings together many of the best European and Israeli scientists specialized in quantum and nonlinear optics. The meeting was held in Ein Gedi, a kibbutz founded in 1953 on the western shore of the Dead Sea, located on the edge of the Judean desert, in the middle of a land visibly wrinkled by the history, which, in those regions, dates back to the first steps of human civilization.
The conference, supported by the Weizmann Institute of Science, the most prestigious graduate school in Israel, saw the participation of hundreds of people with 56 highly selected talks, among which well-known personalities for their contributions to photonics. Federico Capasso, Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard University presented the flat photonics: a single sheet of metamaterials can introduce controllable and abrupt phase changes in the optical path, opening new possibilities in optical design [Science 334, 333 (2011)]. Prof. Kuipers from the Fom-instutute for Atomic and Molecular Physics Amsterdam presented an impressive phase-sensitive, time-resolved, near-field microscope that is able to distinguish different components of the in-plane electric field allowing the mapping of the flow of light and individual scattering events [Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 127402 (2012)]. An extremely extraordinary talk was held by Prof. Leonhardt Ulf, who presented the optical analogue of the event horizon. Analogously to black holes, Hawking radiation is created when a light pulse exceeds the phase velocity of another partner wave that shares the same frequency in the co-moving frame [Science 319, 1367 (2008)]. Prof. Tony Heinz of Columbia University introduced the extraordinary electronic and optical properties of graphene, the first truly two-dimensional crystal to be isolated. The unusual electronic band structure of graphene, a zero-bandgap semiconductor with direct transitions between bands, is such that electrons and holes have zero effective mass. Optical spectroscopy provides an excellent means of understanding the distinctive properties of electrons in the two-dimensional system of graphene. Ultrabroadband fiber lasers were introduced by Prof. Leitenstorfer Alfred, as an enabling tool to explore ultrafast phenomena in nanoscopic systems and to work towards compact quantum technologies operating at timescales related to the duration of the oscillation cycle of light [Nature Photon. 4, 33 (2010)].
Many other extremely interesting and fascinating talks were presented. For more information visit the website of the conference http://www.weizmann.ac.il/frisno/.
While in Israel, Cristian was also able to meet Prof. David Bergman of Tel Aviv University, well known in the plasmonic community for developing the theory behind the SPASER device in 2003 with Prof. Mark Stockman of Georgia State University in Atlanta. [Phys. Rev. Lett. 90, 027402 (2003)].