ICFO decide game

Group 5 – Participant 4

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.

manuel moreno

Story Card 10

In the small town where I live, the City Council has installed photonic sensors: the collected data will help them take informed decisions in the future. For example, they installed a network of sensors to monitor air and water pollution with open data systems, so that citizens can be informed about the environmental health.

They are also working to connect the entire population to the internet network, installing optical fiber networks in all neighborhoods of the city. There are still many thing to do, but little by little we are transforming our town into a smart city!

information and cYberseCuriTY

simón salgado

Story Card 11

I'm a partner in a small furniture family business. A few years ago, I had solar panels installed on the roof of the building that we use as factory and warehouse. It was a big investment, but now I save a lot of money when it comes to paying my company's electricity bills. Plus, a choice like this is beneficial to the planet, too!

energy and environment

olivia ortiz

Story Card 16

I am a high school physics teacher and to motivate my students I always try to connect the concepts I explain with things from everyday life.

The Sars-CoV-2 pandemic has made it easy for me to explain infrared radiation, as we find devices in many places that measure temperature quickly and remotely. These thermometers are photon sensors that capture the infrared radiation emitted by our bodies. Also UVC ultraviolet light can be useful to disinfect, because it can destroy eventual pathogens.


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 and research

Info Card 1

ICFO is a research center of excellence with research lines that encompass diverse areas in which photonics plays a decisive role.

Theoretical and experimental scientists come together in our facility located in the Mediterranean Technology Park in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. They work in 80 state-of-the-art research laboratories with an emphasis on basic and applied themes relevant to medicine and biology, advanced imaging techniques, information technologies and a range of environmental sensors, tunable and ultra-fast lasers, quantum science, photovoltaics and the properties and applications of nano-materials such as graphene, among others.

photonics everywhere

quantum cryptography

Info Card 3

We share on a daily basis a lot of private information (personal, financial or health data) that could be intercepted: the cryptographic protocols that currently protect them would not work with more powerful computers in the future.

A solution could come from quantum physics: it allows you to design cryptographic protocols that would withstand the attacks of any computer (present or future). There are still many technological challenges to the integration of quantum cryptographic systems into the telecommunications network: solving them is the goal of CiViQ, a European Quantum Flagship project that ICFO coordinates and in which others research centers, universities and large and small companies participate, including Quside, an ICFO spin-off founded in 2017.


Photo: One of the ICFO laboratories where technologies for quantum cryptography are being developed

information and cybersecurity

multicolor 3d printing

Info Card 13

Digital manufacturing is one of the key innovations of the fourth industrial revolution we are experiencing. The ability to print 3D objects has opened up countless new possibilities on both the small scale of makers and startups, and the industrial scale.

One of the most interesting techniques to quickly  obtain complex objects is sintering, but it has the important limitation that it can only create black or gray objects.

A recent technology developed at ICFO allows different colors to be added to this 3D printing technique, opening the door to new potential applications and the possibility of integrating artistic and aesthetic design into digital manufacturing.

photonics everywhere

Optical tweezers at ICFO

some of the coldest corners of the world

Info Card 20

ICFO has some of the coldest corners in the world, but no one can get in. There the temperature is lower than in deep space: only small fractions of a degree (hundreds of nanokelvins) above absolute zero.

Only a few laboratories in the world can reproduce these conditions in small vacuum chambers, where they can trap small quantities of atoms (from a few million to a single one, depending on the experiment): in order to be able to study the interesting quantum properties that appear at such low temperatures, it is fundamental that the atoms are as cold (and therefore as still) as possible.

(Foto: One of the ICFO laboratories where they cool atoms close to absolute zero.)


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.


the value of science for society

Thinking Card 2

Having a basic knowledge of different scientific fields and understand how scientific knowledge is generated is important for all citizens. The COVID-19 pandemic is an example of this: it is easier to accept and correctly apply public health recommendations (and help curb the spread of the virus) if we understand the scientific reasons behind them and how policy makers got to these conclusions.

Even if everyone learns science during compulsory education, it is clearly not enough for society to value science and its results: how can we change that?

side effects

Thinking Card 9

A priori, knowledge is not negative: it is the use that people make of it that sometimes creates negative consequences. We know that scientific advances in recent years have brought immense benefits, but also new ways of attacking the security and freedom of people.

Is it necessary to investigate everything, knowing that in some cases misused knowledge can lead to dangers?



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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