Photonics - See the Light

Research into the area of Silicon Photonics is a new avenue that had picked up over the recent years. Under the research thrust of the Engineering Software and Applications (ESA) programme at IHPC, this specialised study into the field of optics holds a great deal of potential in modern devices such as optical fiber communications, silicon waver chips and CD/DVD/Blue-ray entertainment consoles. With this in mind, the latest topic of discussion for the Seminar Series was on Photonics. Aptly titled ‘See the Light’ and held on the 23rd August at the A*STAR main auditorium in Biopolis, the invited speakers were presented with an opportunity to enlighten the young students on the cutting-edge technological benefits that can be reaped from this area of scientific research.

Dr Desmond Lim from the Defense Science Organisation National Laboratories started things off with his presentation entitled ‘Microwave Photonics’. Dr Lim introduced Microwave Photonics as a merger of microwave electronics and photonics and touched on the various applications of the technology in transmission, processing and miniaturisation. Focusing on the area of miniturisation, Dr Lim pointed out the example of a typical computer processor chip, which is no bigger than an adult-sized finger nail, which contains over 300 million microprocessor transistors. Citing this as a relative small step in the evolution of photonics, researchers are confident that by the end of 2010, they would be able to raise that number of transistors from 300 million to a billion.

The next speaker, Dr Aaron Danner from the National University of Singapore, spoke on the topic of Photonic Crystals. He pointed out that the field of photonic crystals and the use of nano-scale structures to control photons, displays potentially revolutionary control of the flow of photons and hence quantum information. He also predicted that to be able to refine and develop this technology which enables photon generation, storage, entanglement, and state teleportation could herald an unprecedented era of quantum computing in which a new parallelism would become available under which currently impossible problems would become tractable. A slew of potential applications in the area of photonic crystal include miniaturized dense multi-channel optical components such as add-drop filters and tunable micro-cavity lasers.

Dr Jason Png, IHPC’s resident researcher took to the podium next with his talk on ‘Devices in Silicon Photonics’. Dr Png gave an overview of the latest state-of-the-art component research in photonics. In particular, a number of optical devices using the silicon material, including modulators, chromatic dispersion compensators, and 1D photonic bandgap crystals were discussed. He also further touched on the critical issues of waveguide design for single mode and polarization performances.

The seminar was rounded off with Dr Lim Soon Thor’s presentation on ‘Silicon Photonics -From Micron to Nano’. A fellow team member of Dr Jason Png in the ESA programme, Dr Lim expanded on Dr Png’s presentation by expounding on the differences in the physical nature behind dielectric, planar and rib waveguides. By adopting a variation of the three different waveguides, Dr Lim explained how researchers are moving from the micro-scale to the nano-scale in terms of their findings. However, an adverse effect of moving into smaller waveguide dimensions would result in increased difficulty in maintaining single-mode operations whilst simultaneously designing for polarisation independence. This is one of the current problems that are plaguing researchers today.

For the 270 students that attended the session, the talks provided a closer look at the growing world of modern technology and how Silicon Photonics plays a major role in the development of future devices that might be used by everyday people. The students also gained valuable insight into the Silicon Photonics research direction undertaken by the ESA programme which, in turn, is aided by the supercomputing resources available at IHPC.

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23 August 2007 : Photonics - See the Light

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30 January 2007 : Material Science - Surprising Elements!

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