Disruptive technologies and optimization techniques among OPTO plenary talks

03 March 2022
Karen Thomas
Jelena Vuckovic, Stanford University School of Engineering
Jelena Vuckovic, the Jensen Huang Professor in Global Leadership at the Stanford School of Engineering, and professor of electrical engineering and applied physics. Credit: Stanford University.

"I am excited about all of them!" exclaims Jelena Vuckovic of Stanford University when asked about the current projects at her Nanoscale and Quantum Photonics Lab, which is making strides in scalable quantum and nonlinear photonics platforms in diamond and silicon carbide, and inverse designed integrated photonics. "I never work on a project unless I am excited about it, because my and my team members' enthusiasm is crucial for the success of our projects."

At the OPTO plenary session at SPIE Photonics West in January, Vuckovic, the Jensen Huang Professor in Global Leadership at the Stanford School of Engineering, and professor of electrical engineering and applied physics, discussed how the inverse design approach can enable new functionalities for photonics, such as compact particle accelerators on chips which are 10,000 times smaller than traditional accelerators, chip-to-chip and on-chip optical interconnects with error-free terabit per second communication rates, and quantum technologies.

Despite the progress of photonics over the past few decades, Vuckovic notes that we are nowhere near the level of integration and complexity in photonic systems that would be comparable to those of electronic circuits, thus preventing the use of photonics in many applications.

"Photonic inverse design is rewriting photonics textbooks," Vuckovic told the Show Daily. "Optimization techniques are crucial for making scalable integrated photonics for any applications. I would like to see it expand to fast design of large three-dimensional structures and have it accessible to everyone — without the need to pay large fees or buy expensive hardware or get training in photonics.

"We are working on addressing all of these. We already have an open-source version of our software for inexpensive gaming GPUs posted on github, which many people around the world are using. New, much more powerful software versions from our team will be coming there soon," Vuckovic added.

Andrea Blanco-Redondo, head of the Silicon Photonics Department at Nokia Bell La

Andrea Blanco-Redondo, head of the Silicon Photonics Department at Nokia Bell Labs. Credit: Jayne Ion, Nokia Bell Labs

Andrea Blanco-Redondo was the third plenary speaker at Monday's OPTO session where she conveyed the importance of silicon photonics, not only as a disruptive technology in data centers and access networks, but also as an enabler of fundamental scientific breakthroughs.

"Silicon photonics offers exquisite control over a multitude of parameters," Blanco-Redondo told the Show Daily. "For instance, in our lab we have used control over dispersion and nonlinearity to create a new kind of soliton — the pure-quartic soliton. While controlling the topological properties in silicon lattices has enabled us to robustly generate and propagate quantum photonic states on-chip."

In her talk, Blanco-Redondo covered recent developments in topological quantum photonics, which studies topological phases of light and leverages the appearance of robust topological edge states. These developments included her lab's recent unveiling of topology as a degree of freedom for photonic entanglement, which could lead to more robust and complex entangled states in integrated platforms.

"I am thrilled about our latest findings in leveraging higher-order dispersion to unlock new possibilities with nonlinear devices, such as soliton pulses with higher energy than theoretically predicted for conventional solitons," says Blanco-Redondo. "I would like to see topology unleashing its potential for real applications. It would be fantastic to see topology having a true impact on large scale photonics integration and photonic quantum computing."

Karen Thomas is a contributing editor at SPIE. A version of this article appeared in the 2022 Photonics West Show Daily.

Related SPIE content:
Jelena Vuckovic: From inverse design to implementation of practical (quantum) photonics

Jelena Vuckovic: Designing innovative structures for efficient optical devices

Andrea Blanco-Redondo: Topological nanophotonics: towards robust quantum circuits

Hybrid high-order dispersion for optical solitons

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