African Physics Newsletter

Laser and Fibre Optics Centre: A Hub for Basic and Applied Optics Research

Meet a leading optics laboratory in Western Africa, that celebrates 30 years of excellence in 2021.

The Laser and Fibre Optics Centre (LAFOC) was established in 1991 at the Department of Physics of the University of Cape Coast. In 1992, it became affiliated with the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) under the auspices of the Office of External Activities (OEA) of ICTP, Trieste, Italy. The Centre was formally commissioned by the then head of the OEA, Professor G. Denardo, on March 26, 1993 in Cape Coast, Ghana.

The creation of the Centre was the result of the recommendation and encouragement from Professors F. T. Arecchi (President, Instituto Nazionale di Ottica – INO, Firenze, Italy), F. K. A. Allotey (Chairman, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission [GAEC] and Ghana Council for Scientific and Industrial Research [CSIR]) and S. K. Adjepong (Vice Chancellor, University of Cape Coast, Ghana).

Support from Italian laboratories

Prof. P.K. Buah-Bassuah--then a student in Laser and Modern Optics at University of Firenze, Italy under the supervision of Professor F. T. Arecchi--set up the Centre with financial support from the Office of Italian Laboratories. Prof. Buah-Bassuah had also trained under Professor G. Furlan and through subsequent research activities with other scientists (Dr. J. K. Aboagye, Prof. A. Ayensu, Prof A. N. de-Heer-Amissah, Dr. Kofi Anane Fenin, Prof. S. K. Adjepong, Prof. S. Y. Mensah and Prof. Haruna Yakubu) from the University of Cape Coast.

Follow-up programs by ICTP, such as the International ICTP-Bouchet Conference on Physics and Technology Development of Africa (Accra, Ghana 14-17 August, 1990), increased the awareness of the use of lasers to solve national problems. This specific program was followed by several local and international workshops, conferences, and training programs in basic and applied optics.

Training and research

The Centre subsequently attracted researchers from several departments in the university as well as from other local and international institutions. Visits to the Centre have had different purposes, including research collaboration, internships, and the teaching and supervision of postgraduate students.

The Centre’s primary focuses are education, training, research, and development. The LAFOC is one of the few centers offering advanced studies in applied laser and fiber optics applications within the West-African sub-region. Its main mandates are postgraduate training, research, and demonstration of the various basic optical phenomena to pre-tertiary students.

PhDs and MPhs

The Centre has trained about 25 Ph.D.s, both local and international students, as well as about 40 MPhils in Applied Optics and Theoretical Physics. In addition, final year physics students of the Department of Physics and other cognate departments offering elective courses in lasers, fiber optics, and photonics have had the opportunity of attending demonstrations at the Centre, with some performing their final year experimental project work there. The Centre continues to attract researchers from other departments in the university, as well as researchers from other institutions in Ghana and the international scientific community.

A diversity of instruments

Currently, the LAFOC has the following instruments: a LED Multispectral Microscope Imaging System, Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy System, Gas in Scattering Media Absorption Spectroscopy, Fluoresensor, Lego Goniometer, Multispectral/Multimodal Laser Horizontal Microscope, and a variety of light sources (lasers). These light sources, other equipment, and several optical bench-top setups enable hands-on sessions during workshops and educational demonstrations of such optical phenomena as:

  • interference;
  • diffraction;
  • photodegradation;
  • photoablation;
  • hyperfine structure splitting;
  • light scattering and attenuation;
  • diffused reflection;
  • holography;
  • imaging;
  • plant fluorescence;
  • speckling;
  • multispectral imaging;
  • remote sensing;
  • etc.

They have also enabled the demonstration of optical fiber coupling.

A diversity of research topics

The available optical/photonic devices and the technical ability of the researchers and postgraduate students have resulted in successful research in Fluorescence Spectroscopy, Raman Spectroscopy, Absorption Spectroscopy, Multispectral Imaging, Fourier Transform Infra-red Spectroscopy, and Moiré and Michelson Interferometry. Recent research at the Centre has been in the areas of Biophysics [1, 2, 3, 4], Plant Fluorescence Spectroscopy [5,6], Water Pollutant Studies and Environmental Monitoring [7, 8, 9, 10].

Research groups

Past research areas group as follows:

  1. Optical metrology
    1. Light Scattering of solids particles, fluids surfaces and phantom tissues
    2. Holographic and speckle interferometry.
  2.  Image processing: information retrieval through light interaction with material/environment.
  3. Applied Optical Spectroscopy: plant fluorescence, biomedical tissues, gas in scattering media absorption (GASMAS).
  4. Fiber Optics: sensing and communication.

The Centre is supported by African Spectral Imaging Network (AFSIN) under the International Science Programme (ISP) Sweden in the training of Ph.D.s in Optical Spectroscopy and Multispectral Imaging. In the last six years, the Centre has organized local, regional, and international conferences and workshops in addition to regular high school outreach programs in the field of Applied Optics.

Andrew Huzottey, Jojo M. Eghan, Patrick Mensah-Amoah, Charles L. Y. Amuah, Samuel S. Sackey & Benjamin Anderson

This article has first been published by the African Physics Newsletter. ©American Physical Society, 2021


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