High school research projects

Discover how ICFO can help you with your project:
there are many opportunities waiting for you!

At ICFO, we use photons to better understand our world and to generate new technologies to improve our society. If you want to do the same, you can start from these photonics-related projects that we have selected for you.

We also provide you with a selection of links to bright ideas that may inspire you to create new projects.

If you have already your idea, but you need to clarify some doubts, we can put you in contact with some photonics experts that can answer your questions.

Please let us know how it went: share your project on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #ICFOoutreach or show us the result at the Young Photonics Congress organized by ICFO.

photonics projects

Here you can find a selection of hands-on activities related to different aspects of optics and photonics.

Each activity takes place at ICFO, it lasts approximately 2 hours and it is open to small groups of up to 3 students from the same class.

You can come here to experiment with us and learn some technique or experiment that can be the basis of an original and creative research project. We hope you’ll come back and show us what you did at the Young Photonics Congress.

You can choose among these projects:


Light is a powerful tool to understand the microscopic structure of matter: in this activity, you will use a macroscopic model to see how diffraction reveals us information about very small objects, like for example the DNA double-helix structure.


Sending ultra-secure messages is one of the most promising applications of quantum physics. We propose simple activities with household materials to understand how (classical) cryptography works and a simple approach to understand how quantum physics can improve classical cryptography. If you’re into coding, you may also simulate a quantum cryptography protocol.


Graphene is an amazing material. This 2D material has a one-atom thick carbon structure that is 200 times stronger than steel, but is at the same time transparent and very light, presenting extraordinary electrical and thermal properties. All these characteristics in just one material make graphene a very promising tool for the development of new technologies.
In this activity, you can make some graphene and then observe it with the microscope.


Observing what happens to light when passing through a small hole reveals important information about its wave-like nature. In this activity you can tinker with the diffraction phenomena to learn more about light and the basic principle behind a very useful photonic technology, such as the spectrometer.


The Michelson interferometer was designed more than one hundred years ago to find the answer to one fundamental question of physics: is the space completely empty or filled with ether? More recently, in 2015, they used this same kind of interferometer to observe gravitational waves for the first time. In this activity, you can build a Michelson interferometer with your own hands.


Lasers are very versatile tools that are at the core of many present technologies: that’s one of the reasons why photonics is so important for our lives. In this activity you can use a laser to measure very small things like the diameter of a hair or the size of the grooves of a CD.


There is a lot of information in the color composition of a light source: scientists all around the world use it for different purposes and applications, from food safety to understanding the chemical composition of the farthest objects in the Universe. In this activity, you will build your own spectrometer to compare different light sources.


A Schlieren camera allows us to see changes in the refraction index that are impossible to see with our bare eyes. In this project you can learn how to build one and see the invisible.


Optical fibers are at the core of the internet as we know it now: if we hadn’t these channels to transport light from one corner to the other of our planet, we wouldn’t be able to exchange information so rapidly. With this activity you can learn how to put light into a fiber.

If you have in mind some other photonics-related project or you can’t find a suitable date in the calendar, just contact us!

bright IDEAS

Do you want to research light and its properties, but you don’t know where to start from?
Here you’ll find some resources to inspire you for your next project.

Photonics experts

If your research project is related to one of the topics that we research here at ICFO, we can put you in contact with one of our researchers.

Summer stages

Students can have the possibility of a summer stage at ICFO by applying to one of these programs:


Young Photonics Congress

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Books and stories

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Science through other disciplines ICFO creates multidisciplinary contests that encourage participants to get inmersed in the fascinating world of science and photonics through literature, music and the audiovisual arts. Light on the Waves integrates science,...

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Magic Shows for Light Explorers

Learning about photonics in a magical way Light, its nature and its properties are as amazing as they are useful. In our daily life, the things we do, the objects we use, how we generate and harness energy, the way we communicate and how we take care of our health,...

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ICFO in fairs and other big events

ICFO participates in science and technology fairs, congresses and other events organized by other organizations with the aim of expanding the reach of our outreach efforts. We create hand-on activities, workshops and intearctive stands and give talks that bring a...

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Challenges to leveraging innovation

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Workshops: putting photonics to work

Hands on activities customized for target audiences ICFO creates workshops around different STEM topics underlying photonics for different age groups. These hands on activities enable participants to learn about photonics in fun ways. They vary in content and format...

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Guided visits to ICFO

A scientific meeting point for young students ICFO opens its door to interested people, who can visit ICFO's facilities. Visitors will discover the latest advances in the field of photonics developed at ICFO, they will acquire interesting information about the physics...

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