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SPIE Optics + Photonics 2023: Nano for energy and quantum science

24 Aug 2023

Plenary speakers Shanhui Fan (Stanford) and Stefanie Kroker (TU Braunschweig) open the plenary presentations.

by Matthew Peach in San Diego

This week in San Diego, California, SPIE Optics + Photonics2023 (“O+P”), has been taking place with a packed program of plenary talks, conferences, panels, and training sessions, as well as a jobs fair and exhibition.

The scheduled opening on Sunday, August 20th, was postponed by one day due to Hurricane Hilary blowing along the Pacific coast from Mexico. But while delegates and speakers “sheltered in place” during the day in city hotels, the storm was losing its edge and local damage was minimal – although the rain persisted for many hours.

The O+P conference program this year is focused on three core areas: Nanoscience (including advances in metamaterials, plasmonics, quantum materials, nanostructured devices, artificial intelligence, and more); Organic Photonics (organic and hybrid materials, perovskite photovoltaics, sensors and bioelectronics, sustainable energy sources); and Optical Engineering (optical design, testing, and fabrication, signal and image processing, and astronomy, and particle technologies).

Nanophotonics for energy

Monday’s opening plenary “Nanophotonics for energy applications” was delivered by Shanhui Fan, the Joseph and Hon Mai Goodman Professor of the School of Engineering at Stanford University.

Engineering the properties of light, through the use of nanophotonic structures has significant implications for energy technology. Prof. Fan discussed his group’s efforts in designing nanophotonic structures in the context of energy technology, “both for practical applications, and for advancing our understanding of fundamental thermodynamic limits of energy harvesting.”

His plenary covered two areas of this work: practical radiative cooling; and the more theoretical topic of solar energy harvesting. He explained that “radiative cooling harvests electricity from the coldness of the universe, which in turn, can be harvested on Earth for a range of renewable energy applications.”

Radiative cooling systems could, for example, reduce the electricity required for air conditioning by 10 percent to 15 percent, Prof. Fan said. “Such systems at night could also generate enough electricity for LED lighting in homes.” This would be a significant development for the many humans without access to electricity.

Prof. Fan’s recent awards include the R. W. Wood Prize from the Optica, a Simons Investigator in Physics, and a Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship.

Quantum science and metrology

Monday’s second plenary was presented by Prof. Stefanie Kroker of Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany, and entitled “From atoms to black holes: with nano-engineering to next-level precision experiments”.

Prof. Kroker explained that, “Nano-engineering is crucial in the realization of compact photonic systems for light routing and conditioning with ever more complex optical functions. This approach also promises to elevate the precision of experiments in high-precision optical metrology to an unprecedented level, such as for optical atomic clocks and gravitational wave detectors.”

In her talk, Prof. Kroker gave an overview of the development and possibilities of nanophotonic devices for applications in precision optical experiments. She explained the relevant physical phenomena of light-matter interaction and illustrate the role of material properties in her experiments.

She concluded, “Nanoscience enables compact, multifunctional and scalable systems for spectroscopy, which has applications in quantum sensors and quantum computers. Furthermore, nanoscience will push the limits of high-precision experiments by more than an order of magnitude – with the prospective of interesting science.”

In 2020, Prof. Kroker received the Science Award, Lower Saxony, and in 2021 she was appointed to a full professorship at TU Braunschweig. She is also a member of the German clusters of excellence QuantumFrontiers and PhoenixD.

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