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Photonics@be : Micro-, nano- and quantum-photonics

Research project P6/10 (Research action P6)

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Description :

This IAP project is about photons and fields, their interaction with matter and their exploitation towards novel applications on scales that could not be reached in former times.
It has the ambition to integrate, within a single consortium, the high level of expertise and equipment which already exists in Belgium and in neighbouring regions.

Hence its name :

photonics@be, micro, nano and quantum-photonics.

photonics@be has been seeded by the successful IAPV/18 Photon-Network (see with some important improvements :

Subjectwise :

• more emphasis is given to the physics and technology of photonic materials thereby reflecting the development of our new fabrication and characterisation facilities;
• an exploratory activity is launched in bio-photonics;
• and the research in quantum optics for information processing which began in the Photon-Network is now spread over several workpackages so as to better integrate it within the project.

From the point of view of human resources, one new group of excellent (young) scientists (UGent-FCN) has been included, while two other groups have left the consortium. The two European partners (USTLille-IRCICA and TU/e-COBRA) have increased their involvement with new themes for collaboration.

From the point of view of training of junior scientists, the project aims at providing them with optimum opportunities to become world class researchers in the field of photonics, and to exploit in so doing as much as possible the opportunities brought by collaboration between partners. In particular the project wishes to build upon the success of the annual doctoral school that was initiated in the IAP PV/18 phase, and to further expand it.

The project photonics@be is coordinated by Philippe Emplit assisted by a governing board which includes Serge Massar (scientific co-coordination), Patrice Mégret (Doctoral school), Hugo Thienpont and Roel Baets (internal and external communication, internationalisation), and a responsible to be determined for the edition of the annual reports. The two board members Hugo Thienpont and Roel Baets are both independently co-ordinating two of the major EC funded Networks of Excellence on Photonics (NEMO and ePIXnet).

The project photonics@be is structured into five broad research domains (Workpackages), in which the consortium has defined focused research challenges corresponding to their expertise or their present research concerns.

WP1, Nanostructures & metamaterials, consists of three parts : technology platforms, applications, modeling and theory. The technology platforms focus on several material systems for nanophotonics : Silicon for passive components, InP bonded membranes for active devices, nanostructured fibres, and semiconductors with overlays like liquid crystals or nanoparticles. The second part focuses on applications building on these technology platforms : nanophotonic resonators in photonic crystals and in metamaterials, and nanostructured plasmonic devices to enhance nonlinear effects and improve sensing. The final part, modeling and theory, deals with the development of new simulation tools in particular for the theoretical study of left-handed materials and their role in nonlinear hybrid structures.

WP2, Physics and design of new photonic sources is devoted to the fundamental exploration of photonic sources allowing new or improved functionalities. The approach is based on both novel concepts for photonic sources and novel methods to tailor and control these sources. This WP is divided into three subtasks. In the quantum sources part, investigations will be centered around different generation schemes of entangled photons. Concerning advanced semiconductor lasers, studies will concentrate on fundamental properties of quantum dot and micro-lasers and novel methods to tailor semiconductor laser emission. The activities devoted to fiber and novel mid-IR lasers will explore new fundamentals of the fiber laser (amplifier) dynamics and design of new fiber sources, as well as novel concepts of supercontinuum generation and Raman lasers.

WP3, All-optical signal handling – Components. One of the main reasons that the capacity of optical telecommunication networks is nowadays not yet fully exploited is that optical processing functionalities are still drastically limited and cannot replace electronic functionalities, making optical-electrical conversions unavoidable and limiting the accessible data transmission rates. One of the most promising routes to resolve this bottleneck is to process the data all-optically through ultrafast nonlinear effects induced by the light itself in a variety of materials among which semiconductors appear as extremely promising candidates due to their integrability and their large effective nonlinearity. The recent breakthroughs in manufacturing ultrasmall nanophotonic and photonic crystal devices, including photonic crystal fibres, indicate that it is now possible to investigate the practicality of this route. The focus of WP3 research program is on the implementation of new all-optical functionalities such as switching in the flip-flop mode, reconfigurable interconnects and 2-3R regeneration, e.g. using devices manufactured in WP1. The large effective nonlinearities offered by nanophotonics will also be used, in close connection with WP2, for controlled photon generation and manipulation in the domain of quantum optics

WP4, Classical and quantum photonic information processing – System concepts, is devoted to the use of light for information processing in systems. A detailed comparison on the use of quantum communication or of chaotic carriers for information processing tasks such as cryptography and random number generation will be carried out. In addition, the theoretical basis of quantum information processing and communication will be studied. A work on integrating functionalities in photonic networks will also be performed. New concepts for photonic interconnects in computers, as well as a new concept called “reservoir computing” for an all-optical (classical) computer will be explored. We hope to build several proof-of-principle demonstrators to address these different objectives.

WP5, Photonic sensing and bio-sensing, is devoted to the exploration and development of novel physical concepts, new micro- and nano-optical components and photonic sources to leverage the potential use of photonics in life-science and health-care applications, in security, and in environmental sensing. Among the broad range of research topics, we have chosen to focus our networking efforts on : lab-on-a chip, micro-fluidic systems, micro-structured fibers, fiber lasers and resonant structures for (bio)-sensing and on mid-infrared spectroscopy. With this research we aim at developing proof-of-concept demonstrators, which we will test and evaluate in close collaboration with a variety of experts from National and European Networks of Excellence, which are working in this multidisciplinary domain.

In summary, the photonics@be project offers a unique platform to support and coordinate high level fundamental research in Belgium and its neighbouring regions in a field of ever increasing importance.

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