Photons on a Chip


Benjamin Eggleton

Professor and Director of Sydney Nano

University of Sydney (Australia)

#63 Under the Microscope | Photons on a ChipPranoti | Benjamin
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#64 Under the Microscope | Photons on a ChipPranoti | Benjamin
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Please explain your research in simple words

My research is in the area of photonics which deals with the generation, transmission and detection of photons, the building blocks of light. My specific focus is on building photonic chips that are thumbnail sized integrated circuits that allow for massive reduction in the size, weight and power consumption of photonic components. We use nanotechnology to build these structures which allows us to miniaturize so dramatically. We apply these photonic chips in optical communications, sensing and quantum technology.

I will report on research in my group on photonics for sensing application. I will report on research being undertaken in the Sydney Nano Institute on a wide range of topics in material science, energy, the environment and medicine. I will report on life at the University of Sydney during a pandemic and how i walk to the office everyday and usually I am the only person in the nanoscience building. I will report on some of the big initiatives in nanoscience that we are exploring at the University of Sydney. I will report on the fascinating transition we are all going through in terms of remote living and working and whether we will sustain these interactions in the future and the pros and cons.

What can the followers expect in your curation week?

How did you end up in your current research field?

I was fascinated with light from a young age but my initial interest was in astronomy and I did my honours project on using fibre optics in telescopes but I like to say that I saw the light and shifted to a PhD on fibre optics. I spend 7 years at Bell Labs in the USA working at the interface of science and business and was promoted to Director when I was 30. I returned to Sydney in 2003 and established CUDOS, the National Photonics Centre. We established a new nanoscience building in 2015 and i was appointed as Director in 2018.

My specific research deals with building photonic chips that use nanoscale structures etched on to planar substrated. We use lithography and etching techniques in the clean rooms. We need to control the dimensions at nanometer scale.

How and where does your research fall in the domain of materials/nano science?

Which research project are you most proud of and could you explain it in simple words in the section we call #InOtherwords?

My group discovered that we could induce and harness the interaction between light and sound waves in these chips which was a breakthrough in the field and has become the basis of a new technology platform for signal processing. The physics of the light interaction with sound is fascinating particularly at the nanoscale.

I teach 2nd year Advanced Optics (diffraction) and 4th year (honours) nonlinear optics

If you teach, which are the courses would you like to mention?

If you had 3 wishes to improve your research experience, what would you ask for (not promising anything here!)?

I wish I could spend some time in the lab.

I wish there were more PhD students.

Less bureaucracy.

Seeing my colleagues. Progressing some great research. Rolling out some big nanoscience strategies for Sydney Nano

What are you most looking forward to in the next 3 months?

Which challenges/questions is the nano/materials science field facing at the moment?

There is still an overarching challenge of demonstrating translational impact in nanoscience and convincing some stakeholders that nanoscience is here to stay and plays a key role in technology and industry. I see the big opportunity in nanomedicine and nanohealth where it will address many of the health grand challenges in disease, cancer and over- all well being. But there are challenges, e.g. with nanotoxicity associated with nanoparticles.