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Sydney nanoscience center opens with strong focus on photonics

26 Apr 2016

Leading lights in photonics research attend official opening of the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology.

The new Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology (AINST) has opened officially in Sydney, with some of the world’s leading photonics researchers gathering for a celebratory two-day conference to mark the event.

Photonics is one of five “flagship” topics at AINST, with the activity there headed up by Benjamin Eggleton, who is also director of the Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS). The CUDOS effort is headquartered at Sydney, with consortium members spread across six other universities in Australia.

Highlighting the CUDOS team’s work on silicon photonics and applications in optical communications, Eggleton said that attention was now turning to the development of a photonic chip capable of environmental and biomedical sensing – and with the potential for integration with a smart phone. Under AINST, that effort is defined as “nanoscale photonic circuits”.

As well as the direct photonics efforts, optics technology is also set to feature heavily in the quantum “flagship” at the interdisciplinary AINST. That effort is spearheaded by Michael Biercuk, previously a consultant with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

During the conference celebrating the AUS$150 million Sydney Nanoscience Hub, Eggleton and guest speaker Mordechai (Moti) Segev from Israel’s Technion technology development institute focused on the unification of photonics and quantum science at the nanoscale.

Topological collaboration
Segev and Eggleton have been collaborating closely on silicon photonics since late 2013, and have just published research that they believe will dramatically increase the bandwidth and processing speed of next-generation computer chips, by harnessing what they call “topological phenomena”.

Eggleton said: “Topological photonics is a new paradigm in optical sciences and promises completely new functionalities and properties that will enhance photonic circuits.”

Published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the work by lead author Andrea Blanco-Redondo and her colleagues demonstrates that by incorporating topological insulation photonic chips can operate at their intended performance levels, overcoming unavoidable imperfections created during the chip fabrication process.

Topological photonics is seen as a way to “protect” photons from unwanted random scattering effects. The Technion team has written previously that the approach could enable more robust optical devices including waveguides and couplers, working with lower-power operation.

Among the other high-profile speakers at the AINST opening were David Miller from Stanford’s Solid-State and Photonics Laboratory, and Rainer Blatt, head of quantum optics and spectroscopy at Austria’s University of Innsbruck.

John Spence from Arizona State University discussed the possibilities of imaging nanostructures with X-ray lasers, while Caltech’s Michael Roukes highlighted the fast-growing opportunities emerging in neurophotonics with integrated nanophotonic devices, optical reporters and nanoprobes.

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