Thursday, November 10, 2011

ICALEO more international than ever

This comment on the recent ICALEO held in Orlando is being written rather tardily as I am just now recovering from the 7-day power outage in my area brought on by the ravages of what is now being called THE October Northeaster, not with any fondness.

ICALEO 2011 was, judging by attendee comments, a very successful event, with 523 registered for the Congress with 51% coming from the US. Attendance was up 12.5% from last year's event in Anaheim. 262 papers and posters were presented in several concurrent sessions, a decrease of 6%over last year. Of the papers presented 82% were by international authors, a situation that caused considerable talk among long-time attendees. Some Program Committee members attribute the limited papers from the U.S to restrictive non-disclosure arrangements imposed by US research sponsors preventing this work from being shared.

On the other hand, ICALEO is as, the name says, international, and the organizers, the Laser Institute of America, has become an international society, so a diverse membership and subsequent diversity in conference presenters is a natural consequence.

Five ILS Editorial Advisors attended this year's event along with me, which made coverage of concurrent sessions and the micro (LMF) and macro (LMP) conferences easier. Their thoughts are incorporated in this conference perspective.

The large discrepancy in paper sources is seen as both a plus and minus, with one advisor commenting that a large number of papers from Germany was "a delight," while another remarked that only 18% of papers were US-originated and that some of these were from authors working for foreign companies. The two conference program committees were actually about evenly split in terms of domestic versus international membership so one can’t find obvious prejudice in author selections with them.

Several advisors sensed the lack of US papers and assigned the blame, in part, on the US government, which, as one said, "has never been able to devise and implement a complex action plan to support industrial research." Another noted that, "Someone needs to lead a credible lobbying effort to find federal funding to help US companies apply laser technology to compete with similar efforts in Europe."

To most observers, this year's ICALEO was slanted toward solid-state laser applications with fiber and disc lasers making up two-thirds of the macro (LMP) sessions, of which 2/3rds were fiber related and 1/3rd disc. The papers featuring disc lasers were mostly from Germany and the ratio of fiber to disc was 3:1. In the micro (LMF) conference, 40% of the papers featured ultra-fast pulse (ps and fs) laser applications and the remainder were ns lasers (36%) and long pulse (24%).

The conclusion one can draw from the preponderance of solid-state applications in the papers would be that most of the advanced laser material processing work being done today is with these lasers as opposed to the CO2 laser, which, while being used in more mature applications, commercially dominates annual sales: about 50% of 2011 revenues.

ILS picked up on this trend several years ago and has been featuring applications with fiber, disc, and UFP lasers in many issues.

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