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Integrated Photonics in the Mid-IR Incubator

Marcia Lesky, OSA

As the Integrated Photonics in the Mid-IR Incubator, 20-22 May 2018 came to a close today, there was a general agreement that the program provided an excellent opportunity to take the pulse on where we are now and where we need to be to make these technologies a reality. There was also the recognition that there is still much more work to be done and discussions to be had including a focused look at how to achieve high-performing, low-cost sensors and the packaging of photonics.
Integrated photonic chips made in silicon and indium phosphide are widely used in the telecommunications industry to obtain compact transceivers, wavelength filters and switching devices. The program hosts Garo Khanarian, Consultant; Robert Norwood, University of Arizona; and Brandon Shaw, US Naval Research Laboratory created the Incubator to explore the optical, electrical and mechanical processes and components that must be integrated onto a photonic chip to create a chip-based architecture that will enable new applications. The program was designed to examine non-telecommunication uses of photonic chip technology in the mid-infrared spectral region, a region which is rich with chemical spectral signatures and a region for LIDAR applications where laser light propagates better in degraded conditions. The promise of this technology is to be able to make much smaller and cheaper sensors for numerous applications.

Host Brandon Shaw, US Naval Research Laboratory, provides and overview of the goals of the Incubator. 

The discussions throughout this Incubator addressed the enabling technology that can make the needed components for a lab-on-a-chip. These lab-on-a-chip sensors in turn will have implications for everything from air and water pollution monitoring, to military and security uses, to medical applications. The need to examine this technology, barriers to implementation, and its readiness for use came about from discussions within the OM tech group
The program was a combination of short talks and moderated discussions that enabled the participants to explore mid-IR light sources on a chip, waveguide materials, fabrication and function and applications. A few of the highlights from those discussions include:
  • The panel, Mid-IR Light Sources on a Chip, moderated by host Brandon Shaw and including Jerry Meyer (NRL) Gerard Wysocki (Princeton) and Irina Sorokina (USTN) produced a lively discussion on what the future might look like for Mid-IR integration. Much of the discussion drifted towards the obvious hot topic – LIDAR for autonomous vehicles. However, there are other applications that require lower output powers, are less susceptible to environmental variables and might require lower heat removal.
  • For the benefit of those working on developing sources, can the community prioritize say ten ‘grand challenges’ out of the many possible applications that could make use of this technology so that they know where to focus efforts and can be more efficient in achieving goals.
  • Alexander Gaeta, founding editor in chief of Optica from Columbia University proposed that a Top 10 list of issues to focus on should be established. The group discussed how different communities can be brought together to explore each issue.
At the end of the discussion, a path forward was discussed which included forming a small working group to further define technology barriers and to identify potential applications for these chips to guide future work. If the working group feels that there is a market for these chips, then several attendees expressed developing a second Incubator to mature the working groups recommendations and to develop a roadmap for future work. Additionally, while the Navy and Air Force Research Laboratories participated in this program the goal for a future Incubator would be to include other funding agencies interested in this area including DARPA and NSF to better engaged needed funding sources.
There was also great synergy with OSA Publishing. There are two upcoming special issues related to Mid-IR and a guest editor from both issues were able to attend.
First, JOSA B will have a feature issue on Mid-Infrared Coherent Sources and Applications focusing on the most recent advances in mid-IR to THz science and technology, from materials to laser sources and applications. Guest editor (and Chair of the Mid-Infrared Coherent Sources Topical Meeting) Irina Sorokina, Norwegian University of Science and Technology served as a panelist at the Incubator.
Second, Biomedical Optics Express will also publish a feature issue on Mid-Infrared Lasers for Medical Applications focusing on the advances in mid-IR applications such as tissue imaging, reconstructions, excision and ablation. Guest editor Fatima Toor, University of Iowa was able to participate in the Incubator.
Stay tuned with OSA and the OSA Incubator program as we work with the hosts and participants on next steps.

Host Robert Norwood, University of Arizona, moderates the panel discussion on Waveguide Materials, Fabrication and Function with panelists: Anuradha Agarwal, MIT; Goran Mashanovich, University of Southhampton; and Gunther Roelkens, Ghent University-imec

Host Garo Khanarian leads a discussion on applications with Ray Chen, Omega Optics/University of Texas at Austin; Jessy Frantz, US Naval Research Laboratory; and Jim Ortolf, BAE Systems

Ray Chen, Omega Optics/University of Texas (right)
Anuradha Agarwal, MIT (below)

Image for keeping the session alive