Laboratory for Optical Physics and Engineering moves to new space

ECE News

Khushboo Jain, ECE ILLINOIS
10/5/2016 10:43:48 AM

Story Highlights

Optical Physics students have fun with a laser and pretend to burn the old lab down
Optical Physics students have fun with a laser and pretend to burn the old lab down
The LOPE (Laboratory for Optical Physics and Engineering) completed its move to the new ECE Building this year. Known originally as the Gaseous Electronics Laboratory, the laboratory was established by Prof. Ladislas Goldstein in the early 1950s and was originally located in the Electrical Engineering Research Laboratory that was situated behind Engineering Hall. In 1964, the Laboratory moved to 607 East Healey Street (just across Wright St. from the previous home of ECE in the Everitt Laboratory). In 2014, the Laboratory celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Healey Street location, and so the move to the new location on north Wright St. was one of mixed emotions for ECE Professor J. Gary Eden, current director of LOPE. The occasion was commemorated with fun pictures by Prof. Eden and his graduate students as they bade farewell to the old lab building. While the move began with the inauguration of the new ECE Building in 2014, it took almost 2 years to complete due to the enormous amount of equipment and materials that had to be moved. Multiple laser systems, including one capable of producing light pulses of 20 femtoseconds, vacuum equipment and spectrometers, and sophisticated dye-lasers that can produce high intensity pulses of several nanoseconds in length, are only a few of the many instruments not available elsewhere on campus. The new lab features over $1M of new equipment, courtesy of the Department of Defense.

Professor Eden and his students bid the old LOPE farewell.
Professor Eden and his students bid the old LOPE farewell.
Prof. Eden is happy to have the new lab location in the basement of the new ECE Building. “Optical researchers generally prefer to be located in lower level or basement rooms,” he said, explaining that stray background light can interfere with the functionality of the optical instruments. These instruments, such as interferometers, are also very sensitive to vibrations from traffic and other sources, making the basement an ideal location. 

Some of the exciting research that takes place in LOPE involves developing new types of lasers such as biomolecular lasers, using lasers to probe the structures of various molecules, atoms and materials, and studying fundamental physical phenomena and microplasmas. The lab caters to the research needs of students from diverse educational backgrounds such as chemistry, physics, and materials science and engineering. The lab is truly a group effort and Professor Eden’s group alone has graduated almost 50 Ph.D.s and scores of M.S. recipients. Literally hundreds of undergraduates have conducted research in the laboratory. 

LOPE has also spun off two start-up companies: Eden Park Illumination and EP Purification. Eden Park Illumination develops high power ultraviolet lamps that are extremely thin, flat, and efficient. These are powered by large arrays of microplasmas. EP Purification also manufactures systems based on microplasma technology but these products generate ozone for disinfecting water. EP Purification water purification systems are available in 30 countries now, and aid many who don’t have direct access to clean water and are “off the grid.” 

“I’m very grateful to the department for [the new lab],” said Prof. Eden. “The department was gracious in supplying the funding that was necessary to prepare it in a way that would be suitable for our research. The lasers are very sensitive, for example, to dust and temperature variations and so our laboratories are essentially clean rooms. We owe a debt of gratitude to the department and all of the individuals who donated to the ECE Building - our alums who generously provided the funding necessary to make the space appropriate for research.”

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