News Feature | February 8, 2023

Bright Ideas — Some SPIE Stuff, Why Orlando Is A Photonics Hotbed, A Supermode Optical Resonator, And More

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By John Oncea, Editor


Bright Ideas presents the most captivating news and innovations in optics and photonics. This week, we look at the potential growth of the silicon photonics market, a massive leap in photonic quantum computing, how optical engineers can use Weyl Semimetals, and more.

Photonics West, SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics’ lasers, biomedical optics and biophotonic technologies, quantum, and optoelectronics event, was held last week and the organization used the opportunity to make a couple of announcements.

  • First up was SPIE’s recognition of the top-rated new optics and photonics products with the industry-focused Prism Awards. This year, the annual ceremony honored a range of established and emerging companies applying innovative and creative solutions to critical problems in areas such as augmented and virtual reality, sensors, lasers, quantum technology, and biomedical optical solutions. “The Prism Awards always showcase an impressive spectrum of innovative solutions based on optics and photonics technology,” said SPIE CEO Kent Rochford. “By providing products powered by photonics, all of these companies — and I am including the finalists as well as tonight’s winners — are offering a terrific array of impactful technologies that will transform lives across the world. I am so excited to be here tonight to congratulate them in person.”
  • Also announced was the winner of the $10,000 top prize at the 13th annual SPIE Startup Challenge, Swave Photonics with their Holographic eXtended Reality chips based on proprietary diffractive photonics technology. “It’s a privilege just to present to a such distinguished audience,” says Swave Photonics CEO Mike Noonen. “Participating at the Startup Challenge was an award in itself, but to win first-place recognition, well, our team is very excited. We want to thank the sponsors and SPIE and Photonics West for the opportunity.” QART Medical, utilizing biophotonics and data for 3D analysis of sperm cells during IVF, received $5,000 for second place. PhosPrint came in third, winning $2,500, with their novel bioprinting technology that repairs in vivo human tissue during surgery.
  • But wait, there’s more! Many exhibitors announced new products and offerings as well.

In other news, is estimating that the global silicon photonics market should grow at a CAGR of 18.56% during the forecast period, 2023-2022. The factors boosting the global market growth are the growing need for energy-efficient technology, the surging demand for faster data transfer, the increasing preference for short-reach communication systems, and the rising investments in photonic chip startups.

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? There’s more than just the Magic Kingdom in Orlando – the city is now considered the leader in the field of photonics. The Business Journal writes, “Orlando is recognized as a leader in the field of photonics with a strong research and development cluster. From innovation and initial concepts to manufacturing the final product, Orlando’s ecosystem of talent and attractive cost of doing business supports a thriving cluster of photonics-based companies. In fact, there are more than 500,000 college students within 100 miles of downtown Orlando, a pipeline of high-skilled talent top optics and photonics companies are eager to tap.”

New nanoscience could present a massive leap for photonic quantum computing, reports The Indian Express. “Researchers at the University of Copenhagen and Ruhr University have figured out how to control two quantum light sources rather than one,” writes The Indian Express. “While a small step up from one to two might sound too anti-climactic to be termed a breakthrough, this new technology could potentially be developed to create a universal error-corrected quantum computer — often referred to as the holy grail of quantum computing.” To achieve the feat, researchers used a nanochip the diameter of human hair. Over the past five years, the team developed this nanochip, eventually improving its performance. “We start with ultra-clean materials grown in a UHV molecular-beam epitaxy chamber by our colleagues in Bochum, Germany. After that, we fabricate small chip devices using our dedicated and very well-tested etching processes. Finally, we fabricate electrical contact on the samples and shield the experiment from picking up excess electrical noise,” explained Peter Lodahl, co-author of the research paper published in the journal Science.

Researchers in Federico Capasso's group at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have created the first supermode optical resonator, reports “This is an advance that alters fundamentally the design of resonators by using reflectors that convert light from one pattern to another as it bounces back and forth,” said Capasso. The Capasso team's optical resonator provides a new tool to conduct fundamental physics experiments, including optomechanics, using light to make things move. “By placing an object inside a resonator, you can manipulate materials like tiny atoms, molecules, and strands of DNA,” Vincent Ginis, a visiting professor at SEAS said. The new device, with its supermode capabilities, could unlock new degrees of freedom for researchers to manipulate minuscule materials with different shapes of light beams.

Stanford researcher Cheng Guo, in a Q&A with AZoOptics, says, “Weyl semimetals may enable many potential applications thanks to their unique properties. In optics, for example, they may be used for compact optical isolators and circulators, orbital angular momentum detectors, efficient high harmonic generation, and nonreciprocal thermal emitters among many others.” Guo also said Weyl semimetals are vital to photonics because they “ possess many unusual optical properties that are absent in traditional optical materials. As such, they may enable many new possibilities in photonics.” Guo goes on to give examples, as well as details what is left to learn, what challenges engineers are facing, and how they can overcome them.