Belfast Launch of the 2015 International Year of Light

25 February 2015

On 20 December 2013, the UN General Assembly 68th Session designated 2015 the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015).

IYL Launch Belfast

In proclaiming an International Year focusing on the topic of light science and its applications, the UN is seeking to raise global awareness about how light-based technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health.

IYL 2015 is being celebrated across the world with the Institute of Physics closely involved in events across the UK and Ireland

The Northern Ireland launch of IYL 2015 took place recently at the Ulster Museum in Belfast coinciding with the opening of the Incredible Power of Light Exhibition at the Museum which highlights the multiple uses and benefits of lasers. A centre piece of the exhibit is a replica of the Vulcan - 10,000 times more powerful than the National Grid, Vulcan is a laser facility delivering pulses of light up to one petawatt of energy.  Animations, interactive exhibits, hardware and displays tell the story of how lasers impact on our everyday lives.

The event was jointly organized by the Institute of Physics and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Speaking at the event, Terry O’Connor, Head of Communications at STFC noted that ‘light plays a central role in everyday life. On the most fundamental level through photosynthesis, light is necessary to the existence of life itself and the many applications of light have revolutionized society through medicine, communications, entertainment and culture.’ He highlighted a number of UK facilities such as Diamond at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the developemtn of the Versatile Electron Linear Accelerator (VELA) and the Compact Linear Accelerator for Research and Applications (CLARA) at Daresbury Laboratory.

Basil McCrea, MLA, Chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s All part Group on Science and Technology emphasized that industries based on light are major economic drivers and light-based technologies directly respond to the needs of humankind by providing access to information, promoting sustainable development and increasing societal health.

Paul Hardaker, CEO of the Institute of Physics, commented on the importance of investment in science to the economy in Northern Ireland, noting: "physics based business provides £1.5 billion to the local economy and supports nearly 27,000 jobs".

The exhibition is also part of the Northern Ireland Science Festival and runs until 1 March.