News Feature | January 11, 2023

Bright Ideas — Quantum Dots Integrated With Ultra-Low Loss Waveguides, Lasers That Fit On A Fingertip, SPIE Announces 2023 Fellows, And More

John Oncea

By John Oncea, Editor


Bright Ideas presents the most captivating news and innovations in optics and photonics. This week, we learn about the three proteins behind diatoms’ intricate nanoscale-patterned shells; why companies are moving away from setting qubit records in favor of practical hardware and long-term goals; and seven semiconductor trends for 2023.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their colleagues have connected on a single microchip quantum dot — artificial atoms that generate individual photons rapidly and on demand when illuminated by a lasilicon-nitrideture circuit that can guide the light without significant loss of intensity. To create the ultra-low-loss circuits, the researchers fabricated silicon-nitride waveguides—the channels through which the photons traveled—and buried them in silicon dioxide. The channels were wide but shallow, a geometry that reduced the likelihood that photons would scatter out of the waveguides. Encapsulating the waveguides in silicon dioxide also helped to reduce scattering. The scientists reported that their prototype circuits have a loss of intensity of only one percent that of similar circuits, also using quantum dots, that were fabricated by other teams. Ultimately, devices incorporating this new chip technology could take advantage of the strange properties of quantum mechanics to perform complex computations that classical (non-quantum) circuits may not be capable of.

The discovery of three new proteins involved in controlling the formation of the intricate patterns of nanoscale pores in diatom shells opens the path toward manipulating the process to structure materials, announced Chemistry World. These uses could include patterning in meso- and macroporous materials for photonics, catalysis, and sensors. The group of Nils Kröger at the Technical University of Dresden identified the three key proteins in the silica deposition vesicle (SDV), the cellular compartment that produces these structures. Nottingham Trent University’s Carole Perry said, “The research is an elegant example of how improved understanding of an organism’s natural biochemistry has the potential to generate tailorable materials using environmentally-friendly synthesis conditions with wide applicability in sensing and separation technologies.”

In a significant advance for impactful technologies such as quantum optics and laser displays for AR/VR, Columbia Engineering’s Lipson Nanophotonics Group has invented the first tunable and narrow linewidth chip-scale lasers for visible wavelengths shorter than red. Researchers created visible lasers of very pure colors from near-ultraviolet to near-infrared that fit on a fingertip. The colors of the lasers can be precisely tuned and extremely fast – up to 267 petahertz per second, which is critical for applications such as quantum optics. The team is the first to demonstrate chip-scale narrow-linewidth and tunable lasers for colors of light below red -- green, cyan, blue, and violet. These inexpensive lasers also have the smallest footprint and shortest wavelength (404 nm) of any tunable and narrow-linewidth integrated laser emitting visible light. The researchers, who have filed a provisional patent for their technology, are now exploring how to optically and electrically package the lasers to turn them into stand-alone units and use them as sources in chip-scale visible light engines, quantum experiments, and optical clocks.

MIT Technology Review answers the question “What’s next for quantum computing?” by positing that companies are moving away from setting qubit records in favor of practical hardware and long-term goals. MIT Technology Review cites an announcement by IBM that it is expected to buck the trend of putting ever more quantum bits, or “qubits,” into play as evidence. Other areas where experts expect to see progress in quantum computing include stringing quantum computers together, taking on the noise, getting serious about software, and competition around the world.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, welcomed 83 members as new Fellows of the Society. Fellows are Members of the Society who have made significant scientific and technical contributions in the multidisciplinary fields of optics, photonics, and imaging. Since the Society's inception in 1955, more than 1,700 SPIE Members have become Fellows. “As well as being recognized for their technical achievements and contributions to the Society, SPIE Fellows represent our international and diverse community," notes Chair of the SPIE Fellows Committee and TracInnovations Director of Business Development and Sales Michelle Stock. "I’m especially delighted this year to welcome so many new Fellow Members from industry — my professional area — alongside their colleagues from the academic and government sectors.”

eeNews Europe reveals seven semiconductor trends that you need to be aware of this year. YOU WON’T BELIEVE NUMBER FOUR! Anyway, from Neuromorphic, or spiking AI, ready to go mainstream to avoiding the need to go to 2nm with chiplets, eeNews rounds it all up.