February 23, 2024

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Optical Chips Research to Underpin Advanced Communications and AI Tech

Optical Chips Research for Development of Optical Switches and Sensors

A new design of optical chips enables light to experience multiple dimensions.

As reported, this technology could underpin versatile platforms for advanced communications and ultra-fast artificial intelligence technologies.

Background

This scientific breakthrough was led jointly by The Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Rostock in Germany, with other collaborators in Germany, the University of Central Florida in the US and UNSW Canberra.

Professor Andrey Sukhorukov led the development of new theoretical concepts with a team of scientists at the Nonlinear Physics Centre of the ANU Research School of Physics.

He explained that light can evolve in up to seven dimensions on their specially designed circuits, which is mind-boggling when it is realised that the space around is only three-dimensional.

Meanwhile, Professor Alexander Szameit, from the University of Rostock, led the experimental work, which includes the cutting-edge fabrication of optical circuits.

He shared that making use of higher dimensions on optical chips could support a variety of future technologies that involve machine learning and performing complex tasks autonomously.

Dr Kai Wang, who worked on the key aspects of the project at ANU, shared that enabling light to travel beyond the three-dimensional space is a major breakthrough.

In addition, it would drastically enhance the capability of today’s optical chips.

High-dimensional network structures can be found in human brains. If optical circuits can emulate this, their computation capability will also be boosted dramatically.

This breakthrough is exciting as it takes them into the realm of science fiction. The sky is the limit in terms of potential future applications that could build on their discovery.

Lukas Maczewsky is a PhD scholar who performed the experiments at the University of Rostock.

Benefits

According to him, the team’s innovation can be used to develop optical switches and sensors that can respond very sharply to transmit or block light.

The work they did is an important step towards creating an ultra-compact and energy-efficient platform for optical networks.

Light can travel inside the circuits on an optical chip but, on a mass-scale, circuits are most efficiently made within one plane, similar to roads without overpasses.

Without the need to build overpasses on planar circuits, they made better use of the cross-talks of light between neighbouring pathways to engineer the behaviour of light.

Improving Healthcare Through Technology

In other news, The Australian National University (ANU) has won more than AU$8 million to fund various medical research and technology innovation projects, which will help better detect brain disease and heart attacks.

Most of the funding is from two rounds of funding through the MTPConnect BiomedTech Horizons program and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), which have been announced by Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP.

Two projects received funding.

The first, which is led by Professor Ted Maddess, has the potential to transform monitoring and diagnosis of brain and eye diseases.

The second project, on the other hand, is led by Entrepreneurial Professor Mark Kendall to develop micro-wearables to instantly detect cardiac biomarkers in the skin.

This exciting technology will provide a way of identifying cardiac events, such as heart attacks, in real-time in a simple, user-friendly wearable format.

Their ultimate use in people could provide early detection of major cardiac events, allowing early interventions that save lives.

Additionally, the University also received eight grants worth a total of AU$ 6.1 million, as part of the NHMRC’s new ‘Ideas’ funding scheme, which aims to support innovative research projects.

These projects will help deliver improved healthcare outcomes for all Australians.

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Mick Cardew-Hall explained that the Government’s investment in these ANU projects will help to improve the lives of millions of people who suffer from chronic and debilitating illnesses.

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