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February 19, 2020
Optimized Photonics
Speaker: Jelena Vuckovic, Stanford University

Photonics is an area of study that involves the use of light whose fundamental element is the photon. Most of today’s photonics are highly inefficient, in many cases adopted from microwave engineering decades ago, when devices could only be designed by hand. It turns out that the parameter space of photonic devices is much richer and that the use of computer-aided design techniques results in highly non-intuitive designs. For example, when you ask a machine to design an optimal airplane wing, it ends up looking just like a bat’s wing, but when you ask it to design an optical device, it looks like something created by an alien intelligence — nothing like what a human would make.  And it all works better than stuff designed by human engineers.