News Feature | February 22, 2023

Bright Ideas — Quantum Imaging, Single Photons On A Chip, A Lattice With Properties Never Seen Before, And More

John Oncea

By John Oncea, Editor


Bright Ideas presents the most captivating news and innovations in optics and photonics. This week, we look at what’s happening with SPIE and Optica, explore nanophotonics, say hello to Eindhoven, and more.

Our friends at SPIE are gearing up for their August 20 – 24 meeting in San Diego and are asking interested parties to submit abstracts and join other leading researchers, scientists, and engineers who are contributing to advancements in optical engineering, nanotechnology, quantum science, organic photonics, and astronomical instrumentation. Browse the call for papers within these three major areas of research:

Can tumor diagnostics benefit from quantum imaging? That’s a question researchers are looking into, according to Wiley Industry News. Current methods in use for diagnosing cancer face limitations in detection because infrared detectors are limited in efficiency and signal-to-noise ratio. This is where quantum imaging can come into play, using two light beams correlated with each other in a specific arrangement. In simplified terms, one light beam sends photons, or light particles, to the tissue sample. The other light beam sends photons to a camera. Due to the quantum correlation of both photons, an image of the tissue sample is generated, although the light reaching the camera has never “seen” it – this is “spooky” quantum imaging.

“Nanophotonics concerns the light-matter interactions between species on the nanometer length scale and light,” writes “Nanophotonics is an interesting field for study because there are many unique phenomena that occur when the wavelength of the incident light is nearly equivalent to the size of the structure, opening up new possibilities for the control and manipulation of the properties of light.” The development of on-chip nanophotonic devices – or photonic integrated circuits – is just one of the areas of growth for this technology.

A new approach to generating single photons on a chip has been created by the Moody Lab, according to SciTechDaily. UC Santa Barbara (go Gauchos!) Ph. D. student and co-lead author of a paper published in Nano Letters Kamyar Parto notes “the current state of quantum devices is ‘about where the computer was in the 1950s,’ or at the very beginning of its development.” Parto’s paper details a significant breakthrough in the field – the creation of an on-chip “factory” for generating a steady and rapid flow of single photons, which are crucial for the advancement of photonic-based quantum technologies. “While it is relatively simple to use waveguides to route photons on a chip, isolating a single photon is not easy, and setting up a system that produces billions of them rapidly and efficiently is much harder,” writes SciTechDaily. “The new paper describes a technique that employs a peculiar phenomenon to generate single photons with an efficiency that is much greater than has been achieved previously.”

Some of us have been singing the praises of The Netherlands as a hotbed of photonics for a while. Now, Financial Times is reporting that Eindhoven, the small, low-rise Dutch city, has become a tech powerhouse. “Eindhoven’s tech sector has attracted EU commissioners, who routinely visit to understand how a place hit by industrial decline in the early 1990s transformed into a regional tiger economy, expanding by 8 percent annually,” writes Financial Times. “Its companies and academics file almost 500 patents per 100,000 inhabitants annually, one of the highest rates in the world. And a quarter of Dutch private sector research and development, $3.2 billion a year, is spent here.” Much of that money comes from ASML, which produces the world’s most advanced silicon chipmaking machines. The region expects to create 70,000 jobs in the next decade and is asking for government cash to double the size of the university, increase practical skills training, and build homes.

Northwestern University (go Wildcats!) chemists have designed a new photonic lattice with properties never before seen in nature, according to Northwestern Now. The new class of materials has no counterpart or analogue in nature. “This type of long-range coupling has not been observed before for any stacked periodic material,” said Teri Odom, a senior author of the study. “Other electronic or photonic stacked layers are separated vertically by a spacing similar to the horizontal periodicity of the building unit in the single layer.” Jun Guan, the paper’s first author and a postdoctoral fellow in Odom’s laboratory, added, “This could be used to create new types of biomedical sensors. These devices can be designed to respond to changes in the body, providing important information about a patient's health. A tiny change in the chemicals in the blood environment can cause changes in the way light bends around the photonic lattices. This variation will be magnified by the moiré pattern and read out by the corresponding laser emission angles.”

Finally, our friends at The Optica Foundation announced 10 early-career members who will serve as the 2023 class of Optica Ambassadors. Selected by previous honorees based on demonstrated volunteerism and mentorship skills, these emerging leaders will provide guidance and advice to a global network of young optics and photonics researchers. “Since 2016, our Ambassadors have provided career advice, technical knowledge, and mentorship for our student members,” said Michal Lipson, 2023 Optica President. “Our guiding principles of inclusivity, impact, and innovation are embedded in this program to reinforce our core values in the next generation of scientists, engineers, and corporate leaders.” The 2023 Ambassadors are, according to Optica: