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  • LIGHT FOR HEALTH
  • LIGHT FOR ENERGY
  • LIGHT FOR INFORMATION
research

Capable of seeing, smelling, cutting, pasting, writing, erasing, heating, cooling, diagnosing, healing, and communicating, light is known to be universal, and pervasive and as such a tool for EVERYTHING. By studying light, ICFO researchers are actively pushing the farthest frontier of our understanding of nature and our ability to manipulate it, thus tackling major challenges faced in all areas of society and by industrial progress.

Performing tasks such as isolating and interrogating single atoms, cutting single neurons, or imaging hidden tumors in deep tissue, requires tools that operate at the realm of ultrafast, ultracold, ultragentle or ultraprecise, to an extent that often only light can afford.

As an industrial tool, light provides solutions that may be simpler, more compact or cheaper than other approaches. Technologies based or enabled by light are in myriad industrial products and services related to health, security, safety, energy, communications, information, food, agriculture, entertainment, and endless industrial production, inspection and manufacturing processes.

In addition to the wider research thrusts of Health, Energy and Information, research at ICFO aims to have a far reaching impact on the Environment (monitoring and sensing) as well as the development of new tools for Safety in all areas of our lives. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of photonics, research areas often overlap in terms of areas of applications and research groups effectively benefit from the specializations of scientists from a mix of backgrounds including Physics, Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, and Clinicians.

Photonics plays an increasing role in a variety of medical techniques and practices, including non-invasive diagnosis, advanced imaging and therapies. Examples include photodynamic cancer therapies, pulse oximetry, laser surgery, near infrared spectroscopy, optical coherence tomography, advanced microscopy or laser treatments in dermatology, to name just a few.

ICFO conducts research and development at the cutting-edge of biophotonics and nanophotonics, with a special focus on the variety of imaging modalities and techniques that aim at continuously breaking the limits of resolution (spatial and temporal). Ongoing research thrusts include different advanced multiphoton and fluorescence techniques, single-molecule approaches, pioneering near-field nano-imaging, plasmonics and nano-antenna approaches, Raman imaging, photothermal imaging, diffuse optical imaging, among others. ICFO hosts also active programs in nanosurgery, neuro-intensive care monitoring, plasmonic oncology and dermatology.

Acting as local BioPhotonics Hub, ICFO collaborates with local hospitals, health care centers, biomedical research centers, Universities and corporations.

The multi-disciplinary nature of photonics makes collaboration between specializations essential. Groups are comprised of scientists from a mix of backgrounds including Physics, Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, and Clinicians.


Photonics is at the core of all light harvesting concepts and technologies (photovoltaics and in solar cells) as well as in efficient illumination and lighting.

ICFO conducts research towards the challenges in energy efficient applications, developing disruptive approaches to renewable energies applications.

Ongoing research thrusts include different advanced low cost highly efficient transparent solar cells, organic LEDs, transparent photonics approaches, smart windows, energy efficient optoelectronic devices, photoelectric, thermoelectric and electromechanical transducers, and energy efficient sensors. ICFO also hosts active programs in nanophotonics, including nano-structured materials, nano-cavities, nano-antennas, low cost material processed nano photonic devices and plasmonic enhanced light harvesting.

ICFO collaborates with research centers, Universities and corporations worldwide, acting as local Green Photonics Hub.


The multi-disciplinary nature of photonics makes collaboration between specializations essential. Groups are comprised of scientists from a mix of backgrounds including Physics, Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, and Clinicians.

Photonic technology is central to the Information Society of today and tomorrow. Optical fibers underlie high-speed communication in access, metro, and long-haul networks, making the use of the Internet possible over intercontinental distances. Light is also at the heart of integrated optoelectronic devices for data modulation and routing, CDs and optical data storage, and all types of displays.

ICFO conducts research in classical communications, covering areas such as integrated optics, optoelectronics, and optical fiber devices. We also investigate disruptive approaches based on nanophotonics and quantum technologies. Nanophotonics offers an unprecedented miniaturization potential. Quantum information systems represent a qualitative leap forward in the design of specialized communication systems for applications like high-security transactions of commercial or strategic interest.

Ongoing research thrusts focus on areas as diverse as advanced displays, plasmonic-based devices, light emission and detection by nanoantennas, wide-scope transparent ultrathin-film electrodes, novel micro and nanofabrication technologies, compact quantum cryptography, quantum satellite communications (sponsored by the European Space Agency), quantum memories, quantum computation, and advanced quantum information protocols. ICFO collaborates with research centers, Universities, and corporations worldwide.

The multi-disciplinary nature of photonics makes collaboration between specializations essential. Groups are comprised of scientists from a mix of backgrounds including Physics, Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, and Clinicians.