International Year of Light

The United Nations has proclaimed this year as the International Year of Light (IYL), an opportunity to raise global awareness about the importance of light and optical technologies in our lives, for our future and for the development of society.

A collaboration between the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, International Society for Optics and Photonics, the Optical Society, the IEEE Photonics Society, the American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics, made it possible to bring the IYL celebration to Washington, D.C., this past week.

Families had a chance to experience the Wonders of Light at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian on Saturday, Sept. 12. Exhibits included a variety of hands-on-optics and photonics displays, including a LED-orb that changes color with music and movement.


Later that day, I had the honor to be part of the Light for a Better World: A Celebration of U.S. Innovation symposium at the National Academy of Sciences. Speakers included 2014 Nobel Prize Winners Eric Betzig and Shuji Nakamura, GE Lighting Manager Gerald Duffy and AIM Photonics CEO Michael Liehr. These leaders in the field of optics and photonics talked about the role the U.S. has played in developing light-based technologies.


NSF is proud to be one of the world’s leading funders of research into all aspects of light across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

Recently, we announced an Optics and Photonics program that will address the critical national need to enhance the support of fundamental and translational research in optics and photonics.

Learn more about how NSF-funded, light-based technologies enable our modern lifestyles, from high-speed communications to observatories that glimpse at the universe’s origins to advances in manufacturing in our special report on light.

Light has been and will continue to be a compelling field of basic research, crossing many disciplinary boundaries.