ICFO decide game

Group 5 – Participant 3

Story cards

Read all the cards from this category, choose the one that looks more interesting to you and explain it to the rest of the group.

clara caballero

Story Card 4

We couldn’t understand modern medicine without photons as a tool to diagnose and treat patients. In the hospital where I work as a physician, thanks to the optical fibers of endoscopes, we can access places hidden inside the bodies of our patients without the need for invasive procedures. Various sensors and imaging techniques allow us to see and obtain information from within the bodies to be able to diagnose more accurately. In recent years, lasers have become an essential tool in many operating rooms for extreme precision surgery. And we haven’t even started talking about the therapies that nanophotonics enables!


ernesto espinosa

Story Card 14

When I was studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, I would have never thought of pointing a laser at a picture by Leonardo da Vinci like I am doing right now! Don’t worry, I don’t want to damage it: the laser allows me to clean it and to bring it back to its original splendor.

Lasers and photonic analysis techniques are very useful tools for restorers of works of art like me: they allow us to analyze different aspects of works of art (such as pigments, or the process followed by the artist) without jeopardizing the integrity of the pieces. My work mixes art and science: I’m sure Leonardo himself would love it!

photonics everywhere

núria navas

Story Card 17

A few days ago, I saw my two-years-old daughter trying (unsuccessfully) to slide the page of a newspaper with her finger. For a person like her, who was born in a world where there are screens everywhere, even on the fridge, it is natural to think of being able to interact with any surface or written word. This would not be possible if in recent years the screens had not improved so much, gaining in definition and functionality. Who could have imagined being able to interact so intuitively with a machine a few decades ago?

information and cybersecurity

info cards


Read all cards from this category, choose the two that look more interesting and explain them to the rest of the group.


ICFO, A different and diverse place

Info Card 2

Diversity is a key element to find creative and original solutions to problems: this is why diversity is an important asset for a scientific research center. At ICFO, there are people of more than 60 nationalities with diverse backgrounds (there are people who studied physics, chemistry, engineering, biology, neuroscience, mathematics, computer science, ...): with this mixture of cultures, languages and experiences it is easier to create an open and tolerant environment where new ideas can thrive and grow.

photonics everywhere

quantum technologies

Info Card 10

Quantum physics describes the world at the atomic and molecular scale: in recent years, the scientific community has learned to take advantage of phenomena that appear at the microscopic scale to create new technologies.

Quantum technologies are expected to improve the way some physical systems are studied, the security of our communications, the computational speed of computers, and the sensitivity of sensors.

With more than half of its groups working in these fields, ICFO joins its efforts with other research centers and companies that are actively involved in local (QuantumCAT) and international (European Quantum Flagship) networks that aim to accelerate the arrival of these technologies within the reach of society.

information and cybersecurity

towards a quantum internet

Info Card 16

New emergent quantum technologies are promising to revolutionize the world of information and communications: to make the most of this potential, the European Union is planning to build an infrastructure for quantum communications, which would connect quantum devices, becoming a quantum internet. This infrastructure will take advantage of the current optical fiber network for short and medium distance connections and will combine with satellites to cover the longest distances. Thus, thanks to quantum physics, the most sensitive data such as personal, financial, governmental as well as the electricity grid, air control, or healthcare system will be protected.


Photo: Clouds of cold atoms inside one of the ICFO laboratories

information and cYbersecurity

photographing the movements of electrons

Info Card 21

To capture images of some very fast things (such as a bullet passing through an apple) it is essential to illuminate them with a pulse of light as fast as the scene that we want to capture. Thus, in order to observe the behavior of the electrons in some chemical reactions, it is necessary to send extremely fast light pulses.

So fast that one second would have to be divided by the number of seconds that have passed since the beginning of the universe to get its duration (a few attoseconds).

In one of ICFO laboratories, they are working on the generation of these pulses to study phenomena that can help improve the synthesis of chemicals or the performance of fuels or computers.

Photo: One of the ICFO lasers that can generate ultrafast pulses

photonics everywhere

thinking cards


Read all the cards from this category, choose the one that looks more interesting to you and explain it to the rest of the group.



Thinking Card 17

ICFO scientists work closely with each other and often with colleagues from other institutes around the world and from other disciplines. Many scientific advances are the result of teamwork.

Still, one often reads stories of quasi-heroic characters who apparently alone changed the scientific field in which they worked. Also the most prestigious science awards, the Nobel Prizes, are awarded to a maximum of 3 people, who often have not even worked together, even if behind many revolutionary ideas there is a team of researchers. Should we value more the role of teamwork in science and recognize more explicitly that results often come from a collective effort?

sciences or humanities?

Thinking Card 13

The boundaries between natural sciences and humanities have never been well defined. For example, think of Leonardo da Vinci: was he an artist or an engineer?

Today, many artists talk about science or technology in their works. On the other hand, scientists offer new tools and possibilities to creative people (the Arduino board was invented to help designers integrate electronics into their projects).

Does the distinction between sciences and humanities still make sense?



The time and resources available to solve important problems affecting society are limited. Imagine being part of the commission that has to decide how to invest the money for photonics research at European level for the coming years: knowing that photonics benefits society in many different ways, how would you distribute funds among the different research fields in photonics?

This is not an individual decision: each group must come to a unanimous conclusion by discussing correctly and rationally based on the facts that you have learned so far. There is no right or wrong answer. Like many things in life, it depends on the point of view you assume, the priorities you set, ...



light for health

Option 1

The pandemic that arose in 2020 taught us that public health is an important sector that affects many more aspects of society. A tiny virus can affect the lives of millions of people in all its aspects, not only health, but also the economy, industrial structure, labor market ...

That’s why it’s important to focus most of our efforts on research projects that can improve and care for people’s health.

light for information and cybersecurity

Option 2

We live in the information age. More and more companies and institutions are collecting and analyzing large amounts of data to improve industrial processes and services for the population. In addition, digital technologies are essential to communicate with each other, whether for work or fun. If information systems fail, strategic structures such as energy networks, traffic control, hospitals, governments, etc. fail, too. Thus, ensuring data security for quick and massive data transfer is of fundamental importance for a digitized society like ours.

That is why it is important to focus most of our efforts on research projects that can improve data collection, analysis, transmission and security.

light for energy and the environment

Option 3

We are in the middle of a climate emergency: to be able to solve it we need new environmental policies and the commitment of society as a whole. Science and technology can accelerate the change of paradigm that we need to save the planet with discoveries and innovative technologies. If we do nothing now, the Earth will be uninhabitable and unsustainable, but there’s still time.

That’s why it’s important to focus most of our efforts on research projects that can help us take care of our planet.

photonics everywhere

Option 4

Photonics is everywhere and has a positive impact in many different aspects of our lives. Sometimes, the same technology (such as the laser) can improve health, information and care for the environment at the same time. There are many global issues and it is difficult to set a priority, especially because they are interconnected.

That’s why it’s important not to focus our efforts on a single field of application: it’s better to diversify our efforts to have more chances of success.

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