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The Photonics Center at Osaka University
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The Photonics Center at Osaka University

Satoshi Kawata, Executive Director and Distinguished Professor Hiroshi Iwasaki, Program Manager and Professor

Photonics is attracting increasing attention as one of the key technologies that will underpin the science, industry, and society of the 21st century following in the footsteps of 20th century electronics. Unlike an electron, which is a charged particle, a photon is a gentle messenger and probe that can travel freely through the air, water, and even the human body.


A historical hub for the science of light in Japan, Osaka University is home to the greatest number of optical researchers in the country, who represent the entire spectrum of subfields, including spectroscopy, photochemistry, bio-optics, photonic materials and devices and more. In 2005, Osaka University launched an in-school project, the Nano-Photonics Initiative, with a view toward seeking state-of-the-art science related to light, advancing nanophotonics research, creating new industries, and developing human resources through a variety of initiatives. Those initiatives included the startup of three venture businesses under the lead of the university, sponsorship of three rounds of the International Nanophotonics Symposium Handai, e-learning courses for working adults, and the publication of academic books (Handai Nanophotonics Book Series Vol. 1, 2, 3, Elsevier). As a follow-up to the pioneering Nano-Photonics Initiative, in 2007 the university established the Photonics Advanced Research Center (PARC, or simply Photonics Center), as one of the programs for the "Creation of Innovation Centers for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research Areas" that are financed through Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology by MEXT. The center has been run by Osaka University as an Outstanding Program chaired by the president of the university, now Prof. Toshio HIRANO. In 2011, the base for the center's activities, the Photonics Center building (which has five floors and a total floor area of 4,900 m2) was constructed. With the participation of over 20 laboratories from many different graduate schools and majors courses, and numerous businesses, the Photonics Center is currently promoting three projects: the PARC/ MEXT project aims to achieve industrial innovation through industry-academia collaboration, the Photonics-Based Eco-Life- Technology Development Center/ METI project promotes the development of environmental, energy, and healthcare technologies, and the Advanced Nano Photonics Research and Education Center in Asia/ JSPS project conducts photonics research and education for Asia and the entire world.

Fig. 1: Photonics Center Building.

Innovation Highlights

We believe that optics/photonics serves as the basis of physics, and without optical research our historical developments in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, and biology would be unthinkable. Among optics/photonics disciplines, we focus on nanophotonics, especially plasmonics, as it is expected to make even wider and deeper contributions in the key fields that emerged with the dawn of the 21st century. We expect nanophotonics to play a significant role in nanotechnology, biotechnology, life science, information technology (IT), environmental science, and energy science, as it evolves into photonics, a cutting-edge science examining the interaction between photons and nanostructures that will play the role of innovator in this new era. These studies are performed by breaking down the walls between conventional academic disciplines at our center.

The followings are some highlights of our activities.

Plasmonic Imaging

A high spatial resolution Tip-enhanced Raman Scattering (TERS) microscope;

Fig. 2: Imaging beyond the limitation of plasmonics by using TERS. (a) An isolated singlewalled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) was scanned under a constant nanoprobe-applied force of 2.4 nN (schematic). (b) The line profile shows the frequency shift as a function of the nanoprobe position, indicating a spatial resolution of 4 nm. (Nature Photonics 3, 473 (2009)) (c) A metallized AFM probe and (d) the light-enhancement at the tip of the probe (calculation). Images of a SWCNT obtained by (e) Far-field-free TERS without nanoprobeapplied force and (f) AFM. (g) The TERS intensity profile on the dotted line in (e). (e, f, g APL, 102, 123110 (2013)) (h) Two-dimensional color image of a nanotube manipulated into the shape of the word 'CNT'. This image was constructed by color coding the frequency position of G+-mode in TERS spectra without nanoprobe-applied force. The color variation shows strain distribution along the nanotube at high spatial resolution. (Nature Communications 4, 2592 (2013))

TERS imaging of Semiconductor-to-Metal Transition of a Carbon Nanotube localized within a few nanometers;

Fig. 3: (a) A TERS image of two carbon nanotubes crossing each other in an "X" shape (X-CNT sample), where the x-y plane indicates the sample plane, the color represents TERS intensity of the G+ mode in accordance with the color bar shown on the left, and the z axis shows the value of the Fano parameter |1/q|, which corresponds to the degree of semiconductor-to-metal transition. (b) A line profile of |1/q| along the yellow dashed line in (a). (c) White dashed lines depict the location of the nanotubes in the X-CNT sample, whereas the colored spots indicate the TERS intensity of a new Raman mode centered at 1607 cm-1, which arises due to the local reduction of radial symmetry, in accordance with the color bar on the left. (PRL 111, 216101 (2013))

Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) analysis of a cellular pathway with a gold nanoparticle endocytosed in a macrophage;

Fig. 4:(a) A dark-field image of a J774A.1 macrophage. (b) SERS spectra, obtained from the nanoparticle indicated by a white arrow in panel a. (c) Trajectory of the nanoparticle, indicated by a white arrow in panel a. (d) An RGB color-coded map of the molecular distribution along the nanoparticle trajectory. The color of the each spot represents Raman peak intensity at 977 cm-1, 1457 cm-1, 1541 cm-1, colored in red, green and blue, respectively. (Nano Lett. 11, 5344 (2011)

Biosensor Devices

Fig. 5: A LSPR (Local Surface Plasmon Resonance) biosensor chip using nanoimprint technologies. Gold-capped nanopillars imprinted on a polymer film. Insets: absorption spectrum of Au-capped nanopillars. The biosensing capacity of this novel plasmonic substrate was verified by analysis of Human immunoglobulin and achieved a minimum detection limit of 1.0 ng/mL. (Anal. Chem., 84, 5494 (2012))

Solar Cells

Fig. 6: Solar cells with a bulk hetero-junction active layer of discotic liquid crystalline phthalocyanine (C6PcH2) and fullerene derivative, fabricated using a wet process, demonstrate the FF and energy conversion efficiency 0.56 and 4.2%, respectively. In the tandem-type organic thin-film solar cells with active layer materials of C6PcH2 and poly(3- hexylthiophene) (P3HT), a high Voc of 1.28 V has been achieved. (Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, 95, 3087 (2011))

Functional Nanomaterials

Fig. 7: Size-selective photoetching: pictures and a reaction scheme (left) and PL spectra of finely photoetched CdTe nanoparticles (right). The emission wavelength can be tuned with a resolution of 2 nm. (Nanotechnology 20, 215302 (2009))

Nano Plasmonic Device

Fig. 8: (Left) The concept of nano-optical integrated circuits based on plasmonic waveguides. The selective excitation of LRSPs (long-range surface plasmons). (Right) The experimentally observed scattering from the tip (shown by the dashed circle) for the case of (the phase difference between two incident beams directed from the upper and lower side of the waveguide)=0 (a) and (b). The slab is Ag with a 30nm thickness embedded in SiO2 and an index matched polymer. (OPTICS EXPRESS 20, 9493 (2012)).


Fig. 9: Atmospheric pressure plasmas shown in the left top figure, with room temperature have been used in a wide variety of fields. In conjunction with Shimadzu Corporation we have developed and marketed a novel plasma detector for gas chromatography. Highenergy photons emitted from the plasma are used for photo ionization light sources.

CsLiB6O10 Crystal

Fig. 10: CsLiB6O10 (CLBO).

CsLiB6O10 (CLBO) is an excellent nonlinear optical crystal for generating high-power UV output with wavelengths below 300 nm. We are now preparing to start a venture company to produce this high-quality crystal named Osaka-CLBO.


In addition to the R&D aimed at innovation for photonics industrialization with cooperating major companies, the Photonics Center also promotes projects in which researchers or students launch their own businesses or commercialize products, and called for the "Business Startup / Productization Projects in Photonics" a couple of times and several projects are accepted and have been run. In order to promote these entrepreneurial activities, the Photonics Center continually provides entrepreneurship lectures by numerous entrepreneurs, investors, and lawyers through colloquia, Photonics Days, and e-learning, including a lecture by Prof. Thomas Baer, the Executive Director of the Stanford Photonics Research Center and a leading authority in the photonics field in 2012.

Furthermore, the Photonics Center is also promoting projects aimed at innovation for photonics industrialization in which small and medium sized businesses in Osaka and other areas can participate. In recent years, Photonics Day has been attended by many small and medium businesses. University researchers, entrepreneurs, industry partners, small and medium companies, and students all refer to the system that utilizes the Photonics Center knowledge, locations, and facilities as a platform for innovation aimed at photonics industrialization as the "Photonics Cannery." We continue to invite small and medium businesses utilizing this Cannery to become our "Photonics Partners."

As innovation continues into the future, the Photonics Center is pouring effort into the training of human resources in the form of young researchers equipped with specialized photonics knowledge who are capable of performing internationally. Students participate voluntarily in the above research base activities, enabling themselves to grow. Moreover, since 2010, students have been voluntarily planning and conducting the Kid?셲 Photonics School "Super HIKARI JUKU", an outreach program of the Photonics Center. In both 2012 and 2013, the Osaka University OSA/SPIE Student Chapter jointly and voluntarily planned and conducted the Asia Student Photonics Conference together with the Photonics Center.

International cooperation is extremely important in promoting innovation for photonics industrialization, and so the Photonics Center is actively promoting international collaborative activities, and establishing many MoUs with overseas institutions.

Through this process, we have striven to create a base of interpenetration where corporate researchers, university researchers, and students can share space, time, and facilities. We have TMT (Tuesday Morning Tea) where these members can gather and chat and exchange ideas freely, as well as photonics colloquia, photonics symposia, and Photonics Days.


Satoshi Kawata received his PhD in Applied Physics in 1979 from Osaka University. After becoming a postdoctoral fellow of JSPS, he spent two years in the University of California, at Irvine, as a research associate. He joined Osaka University as a faculty member in 1981 and was promoted to a full professor of applied physics in 1993. He has been a Distinguished Professor of Osaka University since 2013. He joined RIKEN near Tokyo as a chief scientist leading the Nanophotonics Laboratory from 2002 to 2012. Professor Kawata is a professor of the Departments of Applied Physics and Frontier Bioscience and the executive director of the Photonics Advanced Research Center of Osaka University. Professor Kawata is a fellow of OSA, IOP, SPIE, and JSAP. He has been the chairman of the board of Nanophoton Corporation since 2003.

Hiroshi Iwasaki received his PhD in Electronics from Osaka University in 1975. He joined Osaka University as a faculty member from 1972 to 1986 and starting in 1983 he spent one and a half years at the University of Maryland, at College Park, as a visiting assistant professor. He joined Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. from 1986 to 1991 and became a professor of the Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, Osaka University in 1991. Professor Iwasaki retired and became a professor emeritus of Osaka University in 2008. Since then, he has been working at the Photonics Center, Osaka University, as a program manager.

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