Delaware State University has dedicated its Optical Science Center for Applied Research (OSCAR), capping construction of the mirrored architectural centerpiece that will house laboratories and incubator space for laser technologies.
“Optics has really broad application so a lot of companies use it,” said Noureddine Melikechi, director of OSCAR and founder of the university’s Center for Applied Optics Research. “We believe optics will play in this century the role that electrical engineering played in the last century.”
The $18 million building boasts 28,000 square feet of space for optics research. According to DSU officials, improvements of current technologies in the optics industry could ultimately give way to new ones that could speed up the early diagnosis of diseases or upgrade the ability of military soldiers.
Melikechi founded DSU’s optics program nearly two decades ago, and called completion of the OSCAR building a convergence of business, education and research. He said his team will work with companies interested in high technology capabilities that range from applications for solar energy and gas detection to space programs.
“Optics is really enabling technology for many, many areas,” said Melikechi, whose work with other optics scientists has attracted millions in research grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA.
He will meet with the officials from the Delaware Economic Development Office to attract companies to the space, leveraging its research and lab capabilities in optics and photonics, and growing business together.
“We want to think through from a policy perspective how can we be working together to advance bringing business in to this facility,” said DEDO Director Bernice Whaley. “We have entrepreneurial-minded people in Delaware already.”
Whaley said the right fit could range from local businesses or entrepreneurs wanting to test an idea with assistance from the lab, or an opportunity for an existing outside the state to advance operations to Delaware with assistance from the OSCAR facility.
Construction of the OSCAR building began in 2013, and included $10 million in state funding. The three-story building provides DSU Optics scientists and faculty with a facility specifically designed for optics research. The laboratory side of the building sits on a deep concrete foundation that eliminates the ground vibrations that can disrupt the accurate use of laser technology.
Melikechi said that students and professors at OSCAR will also partner with Delaware students. “This should not just be seen as an educational research facility,” said Melikechi. “It’s part of the high-tech future of Kent County.”