What started as the “Flour City” growing up on the banks of the Genesee River has – nearly two centuries later – become the photonics capital of the country. A federal announcement this summer named Rochester as one of the cities selected for a new Photonics Manufacturing Institute, a year after being designated a “Manufacturing Community” in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) program.
This is great news for us locals.
Living in Rochester, many of us have at least heard of photonics technology and, whether we know it or not, all of us use it regularly in our phones and computers. It facilitates our daily lives, supports our local economy – and gives us an exciting new role at the Rochester Museum & Science Center.
Here, visitors build an understanding of the science behind the important lasers, fiber optics cables, etc. used in the “Manufacturing Community.”
What is photonics?
Photonics is essentially “the technology of generating, controlling, and detecting light waves and photons,” or particles of light. The applications are endless including laser-cut machine parts, sensors and fiber optic cables used in manufacturing, security systems, medical equipment and computers.
How does it relate to my daily life?
Many of the technologies you use daily depends on photonics, but take your smartphone as an example. This device alone uses photonics in a number of different ways. Many of the phone’s physical components are laser-cut. You can also thank photonics for the last text message you sent. The message was converted into photons in the form of radio waves and transmitted to cell towers before reaching the phone of a friend or family member. Then, if you connect wirelessly to broadband Internet, your ability to search the web is dependant on the information that photons can transmit along fiber optic cables.
How can I find out more?
What you can’t see inside your smartphone, you can see at work in our Illumination: The World of Light and Optics exhibition. Bending, bouncing and manipulating light and laser beams at exhibit stations, you can explore the technology of photonics and optics in a hands-on, minds-on way. A pool of water helps visualize the ideas of reflection and refraction; an invisible harp demonstrates how lasers can act as sensors and use the movement of your finger to trigger musical notes. No matter which part of the exhibit you choose to try, you won’t be left in the dark about this growing technology.
The exhibit is located on the second floor of the museum building, 657 East Ave., and accessible during normal museum hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.