Extreme precision is essential in photonics. Thienpont: “We work on a nanometer scale. If you make a lens and it gets even the tiniest dent of, say, 25 nanometers, that lens become worthless.” These high stakes explain why VUB moved its Photonics Innovation Center to Gooik, a quiet village in Flanders’ countryside.
“In the city,” Thienpont explains, “we would have to deal with all sorts of vibrations. At Leuven-based imec, Flanders’ strategic research center for nanotech and digital innovation, they’ve solved this problem by conceiving a sort of floating building that absorbs all the vibrations. Since we don’t have the budget to do something similar, we decided to set up a facility in the countryside.”