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NSF Awards $400K Grant to UCF for Photon Tunnel Development

Photonics Spectra
Oct 2017
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a University of Central Florida-led team $400,049 to develop photon tunnels, new devices for concentrating and controlling light.

Concentrating light is used in a range of electronics and machines such as computers and cell phones to fiber optics and sensors. These devices all use conventional lenses to concentrate light, but the lenses collect and concentrate light on a specific spot, and that spot moves as light rays strike from different angles or positions.

“As a result, sensors and detectors can lose energy as the source of light moves, and the efficiency of an optical device is often limited,” said Stephen Kuebler, leader of the research project . “Our team will explore a fundamentally new approach for concentrating light called photon funnels, that circumvent the limitations that refraction puts on ordinary optical systems. Photon funnels will be designed to leverage an optical phenomenon called ‘self-collimation’ to control how light propagates within an engineered lattice.”

Photon funnels are nanoscale 3D lattices designed to direct the flow of light within them by adjusting the orientation of a self-collimating lattice as a function of position. The lattices will be created using multiphoton lithography, a type of laser-based 3D printing. The interdisciplinary team assembled for the project includes experts in chemistry, optics, physics, material science, engineering, and design and simulation in Orlando and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The research will provide cutting-edge training for undergraduate and graduate students who work on the three-year project.

BusinessNational Science FoundationawardfundinggrantUniversity of Central Floridaphoton tunnellight sourcesopticssensingfiber opticsCommunicationsSensors & DetectorsAmericaslight speed

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