How to Design Any Linear Optical Component - and How to Avoid It

October 15, 2014
Davis Auditorium
Speaker: David Miller, Professor, Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics, Stanford University


Though we can readily understand any particular linear optical device, we have not in general known how to design one to do just what we want. This is somewhat frustrating because with modern nanofabrication techniques and approaches like silicon photonics, we can make a very wide range of structures and devices.  At worst, we have to resort to blind, trial-and-error iterative design processes, with no guarantee that the device is even possible. A good example problem is losslessly separating overlapping optical modes from a fiber and turning them into other modes. Can we solve such “mode converter” problems in general? If we could, we can show we could make any linear optical device. Recently, found a solution. We can prove that we can in principle make any physically legal linear optical device. And it can design itself … in real time, with no calculations at all, and without even calibrating any components. The talk will show how to do this – the approach should suit silicon photonics, for example. It will also discuss realistic limitations to the approach as well as some potential applications – which include self-aligning beam couplers, arbitrary mode converters, automatic polarization trackers, spatial reconfigurable add-drop multiplexers, devices that can find the best orthogonal channels through any linear scatterer, linear optics quantum computing gates, and complicated optical systems that keep themselves aligned.

Speaker Bio

David Miller received his B. Sc. degree from St. Andrews University and, in 1979, his Ph.D. from Heriot-Watt University, both in Physics. He was with Bell Laboratories from 1981 to 1996, as a department head from 1987. Since 1996 he has been at Stanford University, where he is currently the W. M. Keck Professor of Electrical Engineering, a Professor by Courtesy of Applied Physics, and a Co-Director of the Stanford Photonics Research Center. He has been active in professional societies and was President of the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society in 1995. His research interests include physics and devices in nanophotonics, nanometallics, and quantum-well optoelectronics, and fundamentals and applications of optics in information sensing, switching, and processing. He has published more than 260 scientific papers and the text “Quantum Mechanics for Scientists and Engineers”, holds 71 patents, has received several awards, is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, and IEEE, holds two honorary degrees, and is a Member of both US National Academies (of Sciences and of Engineering).

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