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Institute for Ultrafast Spectroscopy and Lasers

Affiliated Centers


The New York State Center for Advanced Technology (CAT) in Photonics Applications

The goal of the New York State Center for Advanced Technology (CAT) in Photonics Applications at the City University of New York (CUNY) is to transfer results of basic research developed by its faculty and staff to New York State companies for development of real-world applications. The research encompasses areas ranging from less invasive cancer imaging to nanoscale photonic materials. CUNY-CAT is part of a New York State initiative to encourage greater technological and economic cooperation between industries and research universities in the state.

The CUNY-CAT gives special emphasis to applied research in areas that improve human health and provide homeland defense, by using its pioneering optical biological sensing, optical spectroscopy, optical imaging and laser expertise to help companies develop commercial products.

Established in 1993 and re-designated by the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR) in 2004, the CUNY-CAT will receive $1 million per year for 10 years. New York State companies have provided strong support for the CUNY-CAT’s renewal. The CUNY-CAT has facilities and equipment on the campuses of five CUNY senior colleges. It draws on the expertise of 45 faculty and senior researchers from the University’s science and engineering departments. Dr. Robert R. Alfano, Distinguished Professor of Science and Engineering at The City College/CUNY, served as Director from 1993 to 2006.

The CUNY-CAT’s faculty and extensive facilities result in nationally-recognized capabilities in such photonics application areas as: optical medical diagnostics, optical imaging, tunable solid state lasers, ultrafast laser technology, optical semiconductor materials and devices, nanoscale photonic materials and devices, compact photonic devices, optical communications, biological sensing, optical computing and optical bio-defense. These areas have enormously important industrial, medical and military applications.

The strong growth potential of the photonics industry in New York State, and the CUNY-CAT’s extensive experience in collaboration with companies, both large and small, helps put CUNY at the forefront in photonics research and the photonics industry.


NASA Center for Optical Sensing and Imaging

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provided CCNY with a grant to establish a Center for Optical Sensing and Imaging (COSI). Professor Robert R. Alfano, Distinguished Professor of Science and Engineering, served as the Center's Director and Principal Investigator from 2003 to 2007. The University Research Center Program award is for approximately $6 million over a 5-year period. The mission of COSI is to develop methods and instruments for sensing and imaging of the earth and environment and to attract and train underrepresented U.S. citizen minority students in related science and engineering disciplines.

The center features a wide range of state-of-the-art photonics equipment to investigate key areas in ultrafast physics technology and spectroscopy, fiber lasers, femtosecond compact lasers, nondestructive evaluation, optical imaging, remote sensing, and supercontinuum ultrafast laser technology applications.

The scientific and technological objectives of COSI include development of optical techniques and instruments (for both in situ and ground- and satellite-based remote applications) for:

  • Atmospheric and ocean monitoring;
  • Imaging targets and transmitting optical signal through clouds, fog, ice, and rain;
  • Development of lasers and detectors for use in remote sensing and optical communications;
  • Detection of vegetation and land cover and measurement of the temperature of ocean waters; and
  • Sensing microorganisms (e.g. bacteria) in the environment.

DOD Center for Nanoscale Photonics

The Army Research Office awarded The City College of New York (CCNY) a grant of $4 million for five years to establish the Center for Nanoscale Photonics (DoD-CNP). The Center's Director and Principal Investigator is Professor Robert R. Alfano. The Center brings together two frontier technologies: Nanotechnology and Photonics of the 21st century. Nanotechnology introduces nanometer-scaled systems, such as single atoms, molecules, complexes, or artificial atoms (i.e. quantum dots) as basic structural components. It promises the ability to control system architecture and properties at the atomic scale. Photonics is the science and technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is photon.

The mission of the DoD-CNP is to:

  • Conduct cutting edge research using state-of-the-art equipments to develop nanoscale photonic materials and devices for military, medical, and commercial applications;
  • Establish an innovative education and outreach program that promotes student participation in research to increase the number of science and engineering students, including female and underrepresented minority groups, at the high school, undergraduate, and graduate (masters) levels.

The Center focuses on the following four areas of cutting-edge research:

  • New glass ceramic materials are being developed here for enhanced near-infrared lasers and amplifiers that could revolutionize optical communications and metrology, remote sensing and biomedical imaging, including potential new techniques for detecting cancers and sensing biomedical contaminants in the environment.
  • Semiconductor quantum-dot hetero-structures employed for improved photodetectors and emitters are being developed that could be used for chemical and biological sensing of warfare agents, missile warning systems for IR countermeasure, cancer diagnosis and corrosion detections among many other applications.
  • New hybrid materials based on inorganic quantum dots in the organic host materials could enable the Center to develop new lasers, light emitting diodes, display devices because of improved oscillator strength, better optical nonlinearity, and energy transfer properties.
  • Microscopy and nanoscale imaging combined with different time-resolved spectroscopic techniques have enabled the Center to control light and matter coherently that have manifold applications ranging from coherent tomography to quantum cryptography.