According to CAP’s science

by Luís Coelho, Researcher at the Centre for Applied Photonics (CAP) 


I would like to take this opportunity to briefly describe who I am and what is the Centre for Applied Photonics (CAP). I arrived at INESC TEC in February 2010 by the hand of Professor José Luis Santos and soon I understood that the current CAP (at the time it was named UOSE – Optoelectronics and Electronic Systems Unity) would be the ideal place to grow both at a personal and professional levels. At a personal level, because there is a deep friendship environment that sometimes can even be mistaken by family in this micro planet’s culture embedded in this small solar system called FCUP. Diverse snacks, joint activities, and the short daily gatherings when we drink coffee in the morning and in the afternoon are a clear sign of our social vitality.

Since I arrived at CAP, I have seen the emergence of new structures and dynamic people that I consider to be of extreme importance for CAP and who are directly aimed at the development of INESC TEC in its global component.

A good example is FCUP’s clean room, managed by our Coordinator, and which resulted from a substantial contribution from CAP, currently being fundamental to a large part of the research that we develop. Other examples are the recent developments in complex laser systems led by Paulo Marques and Pedro Jorge. With these systems, we have the ability to manufacture microstructures inside any kind of silica substrates, which allows to make dreams come true. Detecting the presence of chemical elements in different types of samples is also possible through the combination of dedicated lasers and spectrometers.

Creating a group of students from the Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE Chapter) at the University of Porto, which is unique in the country, was an extremely important milestone of which I was proud to be president in 2014. This group has been led by PhD students from CAP, being rotated annually and has been internationally recognised for its optics and photonics promotion actions.

In INESC TEC’s universe, the integrated projects have been an open route for internal cooperation and, in my opinion, they have been working really well. Today, there is a greater interaction between centres compared to what was done in the past, but I must confess that it isn’t easy to overcome the fact that we are physically apart from each other. The recent clusters are starting in full force and are a solid opportunity to minimise this spatial barrier that exists between the different centres. In our case, we are part of NIS, a cluster with a huge scientific diversity. Some believe that we are a cluster that won’t be able to be strong, but judging from the success of the last workshop, I suppose we could say “no one can stop us!”.

For those who don’t know or have been distracted, at CAP, we develop optical solutions for sensing physical, chemical and biological parameters either through the use of optical fibres or in planar substrates or through free space optics. And at INESC TEC, we are always waiting for challenges so we can think of optics…. solutions!

An example of this activity are the fibre sensors that we are developing in order to monitor concrete structures. This is a joint work with the University of Minho on the SolSensors project, in which I am the one responsible on INESC TEC’s part. With this project, we intend to know the state of degradation inside the concrete, by using optical fibre sensors coated with specific polymers and installed at the time of the structure’s production. All of this without the need of opening holes in the already installed reinforced concrete.

I’m also responsible for an internal project that aims at detecting biogenic amines, with the help of optical means, in animal products and that are developed during fermentation processes. Its consumption often causes serious and undesirable toxicological effects for human health. Just because someone buys meat in a butcher’s shop doesn’t mean it is free of biogenic amines. And remember… when asking for minced meat make sure you watch them doing it!


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