Vision and Mission
Photonics is a major digital technology of the 21st century and the key enabling technology empowered by the unique properties of light. Photonics is at the heart of B-PHOT’s activities in its dedicated photonics research and innovation center on the Photonics Campus Gooik of VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium). B-PHOT teams up a critical mass of 70 highly skilled researchers and technology experts, coached and directed by Prof. Hugo Thienpont, with a mission to jointly embrace photonics, connect the dots between photonics research, innovation, education and STEM, and establish links to other science and engineering disciplines. Our aim is to contribute with photonics to solving the current and future global challenges in sectors such as Biomedical, Industry 4.0, Agrifood, Information and Communication, Mobility, Durability, and Smart Cities, and to building a brighter and healthier world for all.
Professor Roger Van Geen creates the new department of Applied Physics within the Engineering Faculty of VUB. His motto was “Light and light-based technologies will create a paradigm shift in research and will revolutionize our industry and society in the decades to come”. As such he inspired a new generation of students, who laid the foundation of Brussels Photonics.
A new interuniversity research initiative -the Interuniversity Attraction Poles- is launched by the Belgian government. We team up with the “Nonlinear Optics” consortium, coordinated by Prof. Paul Mandel from ULB. The funding of this project allows us to purchase new state-of-the art lasers and optical equipment, to start our first experiments in optical bistability, and to give Master and PhD students the opportunity of hands-on lab experience . (on the photo: master student Michiel Pelt)
A first international research working visit on nonlinear bistable devices takes place in the research team of Prof. Dieter Jäger (University of Münster). It results in a first joint international journal paper. The visit makes clear that in-house optoelectronic semiconductor device fabrication will be essential to continue research in digital optical computing. A strong collaboration with the team of Prof. Roger Vounckx of the VUB electronics department is initiated. (on the photo: PhD student Hugo Thienpont at the Jäger lab in Münster)
The first PhD thesis at TONA-VUB is successfully defended by PhD student Hugo Thienpont. The work was enitled “Optically bistable semiconductor devices for digital light control: between theory and technology”. The defense included an an appositional thesis on “The saturation of hyperpolarizability of nonlinear optical polymers”, work Hugo performed at the Philips Natlabs Eindhoven with Prof. Bert Meyer and Dr. Geert Rikken. (Fragments of Hugo’s PhD were recorded with an early commercial CCD camera by Maarten Kuyck. This video is a unique document because it features many of the early VUB Faculty of Engineering professors such as Profs. R. Van Geenᵻ, I. Veretennicoff, A. Barel, E. Stijns, Ph. Ronsmansᵻ, G. Maggettoᵻ, A. Cardonᵻ, B. Van Mele, R. Vounckx, and H. Eisendrath, as well as external jury members Profs. P. Lagasse (Ugent), E. Meyer (U. Eindhoven), D. Jaeger (U. Münster) and P. Mandel (ULB).)
Prof. Irina Veretennicoff and Dr. Hugo Thienpont launch the VUB “Master in Photonics Engineering” curriculum, the first of its kind on the European mainland. It features a very good balance between theoretical lectures and hands-on photonics laboratories and immediately attracts excellent visionary students. (2 students on the photo : Nathalie Debaes and Valérie Baukens)
One year after Prof. Van Geen passed away, the first cohort of photonics engineers graduate. (on the photo from left to right: graduating engineers Patrick Tuteleers, Steve Vandenplas, Nathalie Debaes, Guy Verschaffelt, Valérie Baukens, Birgit Morlion, Pedro Vynck, and Véronique Wendrix. Prof. Hugo Thienpont and Prof Veretennicoff are in the back.)
“Flanders Technoland” is the first technology fair where we present our photonics capabilities to the Flemish industry and to the public at large. At our “Focus on Photonics” booth our photonics students, researchers, and professors explain the innovation potential of photonics to entrepreneurs and decisionmakers. At this occasion our students receive their first industry awards for their applied research work. (on the photo: the VUB photonics team including students, researchers, professors, and supporters) (on the photo master student Michiel Pelt receiving an award out of the hands of Hugo Van Damme CEO of BARCO and Minister Van den Brande)
Our focus moves from optical switching devices to digital optical interconnects and micro-optics fabrication. We start developing “deep proton lithography” as an in-house micro-optics prototyping technology and use the VUB cyclotron source facilities, managed by Prof. Alex Hermanne.
We kick-off our first large-scale industry project with Barco Elbicon. The project entails laser-based food sorting and is initiated by Nathalie Debaes one of the first alumni of our Master in Photonics Engineering curriculum. With this first large-scale industry collaborative project, Nathalie successfully initiates a durable research track on photonics in agri-food.
We organise our first international conference “Optics in Computing” in Brugge. Prof. Thienpont receives the strong support of conference co-chairs Prof. David A.B. Miller (Stanford University) and Prof. Pierre Chavel (Institut d’Optique, Paris)
Francis Berghmans successfully defends his PhD on “Photonics for remote handling and monitoring in nuclear environments: design, realization, and testing of a free-space fiber-optic sensor switch”. This PhD was the result of a strong collaboration with Belgium’s nuclear research center SCK-CEN. Dr. Berghmans then joins SCK-CEN and returns to B-PHOT in 2007 as professor to start a research track on optical fiber sensors.
Our first large scale research infrastructure project is granted by the Flemish government and we prioritize the investments in clean-room grade optical metrology labs for micro-optics. (on the photo Steven Brantegem, PhD student Jürgen Van Erps, and Prof. Hugo Thienpont)
We take a first and bold step in the European Commission funded research arena and initiate the Network of Excellence on Micro-Optics “NEMO”. For the next 4 years we coordinate the joint European research activities of 30 European top research labs and structure and integrate their technology platforms in micro-optics. Prof. Hugo Thienpont’s co-coordinators are Dr. Jürgen Mohr from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and Prof. Malgorzata Kujawinska from Warsaw University of Technology. NEMO is the first of a series of very successful large-scale pan-European photonics initiatives directed by B-PHOT.
After an internship at the Erlangen-Nürnberg University in the optics group of Prof. Johannes Schwider, Heidi Ottevaere successfully defends her PhD on micro-optics and Bragg grating sensors, entitled “Refractive Microlenses and Micro-optical Structures for Multi-parameter Sensing: A Touch of Micro-Photonics”. With her newly acquired skills Heidi will pave the way for B-PHOT’s successful research track in optical metrology.
Encouraged by the successful SPIE Photonics Fabrication Europe conference in Brugge in 2003, Prof. Hugo Thienpont is invited to set up and chair the largest European photonics conference ever, namely SPIE “Photonics Europe”. The conference is first held in Strasbourg in 2004 and will play a major role in increasing the international visibility of European photonics research as well as in boosting collaborative European research initiatives.
Wendy Meulebroeck successfully defends her PhD on “Optical detection techniques for laser sorting: product identification and quality control”. Her PhD was the result of a strong collaboration with BEST Sorting, now TOMRA Sorting NV. With her work Wendy introduces applied optical spectroscopy to B-PHOT as an interdisciplinary research track.
B-PHOT becomes an active member of the board of stakeholders of Photonics 21, Europe’s public private partnership for photonics. Photonics 21 will become the driver behind the photonics innovation revolution in Europe.
B-PHOT is recognized by the Flemish Government as “VUB innovation spearhead” after a successful presentation and evaluation of its “Industry Research Fund” valorization roadmap for photonics. The funding of B-PHOT’s valorization roadmap for photonics innovation is going to be a crucial leverage to boost B-PHOT’s collaboration with Flemish and European companies. It will also be a crucial motivation to continue applying for new Europe-funded projects as well as the drive mechanism to engage B-PHOT in the full photonics supply chain, from fundamental research to prototyping and pilot-line manufacturing.
We start the VUB – UGent Interuniversity Photonics Curriculum. Together with Heriot-Watt, Strathclyde, and KTH Stockholm we apply and obtain the European Erasmus Mundus quality label, which boosts the international dimension of our Photonics Curriculum. Students now come from all over Europe and from all over the world to Brussels to study photonics.
We start our Photonics STEM activities by hosting the Photonics 21 “Fascination of light” travelling exhibition at VUB Campus. Officially opened by Commissioner Viviane Reding, the exhibition was visited by thousands of pupils, students, teachers and parents.
Michael Vervaeke successfully defends his PhD on: “Photonic Modelling and Packaging of Chip-Level Interconnects”. The PhD focused on micro-optics design and fabrication, on tolerancing analysis, and on the demonstration of free-space intra-chip interconnects. Michael’s proof-of-concept demonstrator was based on an array of VCSELs and RCPDs, fabricated by Dr. Kent Geib of Sandia Laboratories.
Commissioner Viviane Reding visits the NEMO booth at Photonics Europe 2008 in Strasbourg and receives our very first STEM Educational Kit, the NEMO Micro-Optics kit. It contains micro-lenses, diffractive optical elements, gratings, computer generated holograms, and a laser pointer. It was the perfect tool for secondary school teachers and university professors to give in-class demonstrations of light diffraction. It was distributed to hundreds of schools and to dozens of SPIE student chapters all over the world.
Nathalie Vermeulen successfully defends her PhD on “Modelling continuous-wave Raman lasers: towards an intrinsic heat mitigation mechanism”. For her groundbreaking work Nathalie will later on receive the VUB Ignace Vanderschueren and Photonics 21 Young Researchers Award. Nathalie will manage B-PHOT’s research track on non-linear photonics and nonlinear materials.
Jürgen Van Erps successfully defends his PhD on “Interfacing micro-components for optical interconnections from the FTTH-level to the PCB-level”. After his PhD Jürgen continues to work on the design and fabrication of free-space to fiber, fiber-to-fiber, and fiber-to-chip coupling components and demonstrators.
In 2008 Profs. Jürgen Popp, Gerd Von Bally and Hugo Thienpont kick-off Photonics4Life, the European Network of Excellence on Biophotonics. Photonics 4Life will be a catalyst for B-PHOT’s European collaboration in photonics for health research and a booster for its biomedical diagnostic sensor and lab-on-chip activities.
Together with Prof. A. Van Calster and our colleagues from CMST-UGent we successfully apply for a Hercules large-scale equipment grant and are able to expand our in-house manufacturing capabilities with ultra-precision diamond tooling and hot-embossing replication equipment. This equipment requires a vibration free environment and lots of space, such that we must expand our laboratory facilities by move off VUB Campus to a new location. This new location is found in the rural village of Gooik. It is the start of a new episode of growth in the history of B-PHOT and of a new VUB Campus. (on the photo: third from left Prof. A. Van Calster, in the middle with flowers Minister Ingrid Lieten, first from the right Prof. Hugo Thienpont)
SPIE Photonics Europe 2010 comes to Brussels. B-PHOT hosts the symposium. Prof. Hugo Thienpont is general chair of the symposium, and chairs, together with his colleague Prof. Francis Berghmans, the Hot Topics in Photonics plenary sessions. SPIE Photonics Europe features 19 conferences, 2500 attendees, 1250 scientific presentations a technology exhibit, an innovation village, a career event, and much more. Photonics Europe will stay in Brussels until 2014.
Coached by marketing expert Kathleen Perkins B-PHOT creates a new branding and a new look. Together with more than 250 international photonics experts, photonics CEOs, EU project officers and heads of unit, Minister Fientje Moerman, and VUB rector Paul de Knop we celebrate our 25th anniversary, our new logo, and unveil the scale model of our new facilities in Gooik, designed by architect Rudy Mets.
B-Phot is a fast-growing and hard-working research and innovation team. To come up with new strategies and fresh ideas and to stimulate collaboration, cross-fertilization and team spirit, B-PHOT annually organizes a two-days off-site meeting. Here B-PHOT is enjoying the seaside at Oostduikerke.
B-PHOT participates in ICT 2010, Europe’s most visible forum for ICT research and innovation, with a booth on Photonics. The booth is visited by His Royal Highness Prince Philippe, by Commissioner Neelie Kroes, and by Brussels Minister Benoît Cerexhe who are welcomed by Prof. Francis Berghmans.
B-PHOT initiates and coordinates the European Access Center to Micro-Optics Services and Technologies ACTMOST. ACTMOST, an emanation of NEMO, aimed at testing the radically new concept of a European one-stop-shop access centre that would offer micro-optics innovation support to SMEs. It was the seed and successful start of a long series of EU-funded projects to support SMEs with deep photonics innovation technologies, business and investment coaching.
Thomas Geernaert successfully defends his PhD entitled: “Microstructured Fiber Bragg Grating Sensors: From Fiber Design to Sensor Implementation”. Thomas joins B-PHOT’s fiber sensor team, becomes one of the principle investigators of the group, and will continuously boost its activities.
B-PHOT launches the Non-Profit Organization EYEST: Excite Youth for Engineering Science and Technology. EYEST, with as first CEO Ms. Amrita Prasad, will be responsible for the manufacturing and the EU- and worldwide distribution of the successful Photonics Explorer kits. Under the leadership of its second CEO Nathalie Debaes EYEST participates in various EU funded STEM projects, expands its STEM product portfolio, and reaches the cape of 3500 photonics explorer kits, distributed to thousands of teachers all over the world, providing hands-on classroom experiments to hundred thousand students a year.
Group photo of B-PHOT at SPIE Photonics Europe in Brussels in 2012
After two years of construction works B-Phot installs its cutting-edge freeform optics prototyping and manufacturing equipment in its brand new Photonics Innovation Center in Gooik. The center is officially opened by Flanders Minister-President Kris Peeters, Minister for Innovation Ingrid Lieten, EU Deputy Head of Unit Ronan Burgess, Mayor of Gooik Michel Doomst, Rector Paul De Knop, and General Director of VUB Nic Van Craen.
Motivated by the success of ACTMOST, Prof. Thienpont and his B-PHOT team take the initiative to integrate all European photonics access centers for SME innovation support under one umbrella. The one-stop-shop Access Center for Photonics Innovation Solutions and Technology Support is named ACTPHAST. In the course of 4 years the ACTPHAST consortium will work with almost 100 SMEs to develop new photonics-enhanced products, create hundreds of new high-tech jobs, raise 70 million euros of new venture capital, and generate 500 million of new revenues for the companies.
Nathalie Vermeulen receives ERC Grant
Group photo of B-PHOT in 2014.
B-PHOT is Corelab of Flanders Make.
B-PHOT welcomes a lot of visitors at the Photonics Innovation Center Open Doors.
B-PHOT at teambuilding in 2015
With the coordination of the European PHABLABS4.0 project, B-PHOT takes another major step forward in its photonics STEAM activities and introduces photonics in the European Fablabs community. As such it supports the next generation with hands-on skills and creativity in photonics
B-PHOT continues coordinating large-scale innovation projects : ACTPHAST4.0 for companies and ACTPHAST4R for researchers
B-PHOT starts close collaboration with Hamamatsu Photonics