Researchers Customize Broadband Light Sources Using a Photonic Chip and AI

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Researchers from Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) and the University of Sussex have collaborated to create an optical device that uses AI to control the properties of light. Using an actively controlled photonic chip, the researchers prepared and manipulated patterns of femtosecond (fs) optical pulses. These pulses enabled access to an enhanced parameter space within the framework of supercontinuum generation (i.e., the generation of extended light spectra through intense light-matter interactions). The researchers used machine learning techniques to tune their approach.

The development of lasers featuring intense and ultrashort laser pulses, along with ways to spatially confine and guide light propagation, has led to an array of possibilities for optical systems, including the generation of supercontinuum.

Femtosecond pulse patterns, prepared by a photonic chip to seed the generation of supercontinuum. INRS and University of Sussex.

Spectrotemporal representation of femtosecond pulse patterns, prepared by a photonic chip to seed the generation of supercontinuum. The patterns are optimized via machine learning to select and enhance desired properties in the output supercontinuum. Here, the pulses are separated by 1 picosecond and measured experimentally via frequency-resolved optical gating (FROG). Courtesy of Benjamin Wetzel.

By exploiting the ability of powerful, miniature, optical chips to shape and control laser light, the researchers developed a way to divide and recombine laser pulses so as to control the individual characteristics of the light pulses. They created and manipulated intense ultrashort pulse patterns, demonstrating diverse patterns of fs optical pulses. These pulses could be used to generate a broadband optical spectrum.

“We have taken advantage of the compactness, stability, and subnanometer resolution offered by integrated photonic structures to generate reconfigurable bunches of ultrashort optical pulses,” said Benjamin Wetzel, a principal investigator at the University of Sussex. “The exponential scaling of the parameter space obtained yields to over 1036 different configurations of achievable pulse patterns, more than the number of stars estimated in the universe.”

An ultrashort pulse is sent into an optical fiber and produces new frequency components via intense light-matter interactions. INRS and University of Sussex.

An ultrashort pulse is sent into an optical fiber and produces new frequency components via intense light-matter interactions. The progressive spectral broadening of the initial light pulse occurring during propagation ultimately leads to the formation of a so-called supercontinuum. In the example here, this corresponds to a “white light” source that, similar to a rainbow, is composed of all the colors seen in the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Courtesy of Benjamin Wetzel.

To meet the computing power requirements required for its approach, the team used an automatic learning algorithm to help determine the best parameter combinations for obtaining the exact type of light they desired. The researchers showed that the control and customization of the output light could be performed efficiently, when they conjointly used their system and an algorithm to explore the multitude of available light pulse patterns possible for tailoring complex physical dynamics.

This approach, which combines an AI algorithm and a photonic chip, could lead to a better understanding of light-matter interactions and enable ultrafast nonlinear optics.

To keep pushing the limits of laser science, metrology, sensing, and biomedical imaging technologies, additional tailoring capability of light properties is needed, the researchers said. With this work, the international research team has unveiled a potential solution to customizing light properties that is scalable and practical.

This work could affect fundamental and applied research in a number of fields, because many current optical systems rely on the same physical and nonlinear effects as those underlying supercontinuum generation. The team’s novel approach could seed the development of other smart optical systems via self-optimization techniques, including the control of optical frequency for metrology applications, self-adjusting lasers, pulse processing, and amplification, as well as the implementation of more fundamental approaches to machine learning, such as photonic neural network systems.

The research was published in Nature Communications (

Published: November 2018
Metrology is the science and practice of measurement. It encompasses the theoretical and practical aspects of measurement, including the development of measurement standards, techniques, and instruments, as well as the application of measurement principles in various fields. The primary objectives of metrology are to ensure accuracy, reliability, and consistency in measurements and to establish traceability to recognized standards. Metrology plays a crucial role in science, industry,...
integrated optics
A thin-film device containing miniature optical components connected via optical waveguides on a transparent dielectric substrate, whose lenses, detectors, filters, couplers and so forth perform operations analogous to those of integrated electronic circuits for switching, communications and logic.
nonlinear optics
Nonlinear optics is a branch of optics that studies the optical phenomena that occur when intense light interacts with a material and induces nonlinear responses. In contrast to linear optics, where the response of a material is directly proportional to the intensity of the incident light, nonlinear optics involves optical effects that are not linearly dependent on the input light intensity. These nonlinear effects become significant at high light intensities, such as those produced by...
integrated photonics
Integrated photonics is a field of study and technology that involves the integration of optical components, such as lasers, modulators, detectors, and waveguides, on a single chip or substrate. The goal of integrated photonics is to miniaturize and consolidate optical elements in a manner similar to the integration of electronic components on a microchip in traditional integrated circuits. Key aspects of integrated photonics include: Miniaturization: Integrated photonics aims to...
Optoelectronics is a branch of electronics that focuses on the study and application of devices and systems that use light and its interactions with different materials. The term "optoelectronics" is a combination of "optics" and "electronics," reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of this field. Optoelectronic devices convert electrical signals into optical signals or vice versa, making them crucial in various technologies. Some key components and applications of optoelectronics include: ...
optical communications
The transmission and reception of information by optical devices and sensors.
machine learning
Machine learning (ML) is a subset of artificial intelligence (AI) that focuses on the development of algorithms and statistical models that enable computers to improve their performance on a specific task through experience or training. Instead of being explicitly programmed to perform a task, a machine learning system learns from data and examples. The primary goal of machine learning is to develop models that can generalize patterns from data and make predictions or decisions without being...
artificial intelligence
The ability of a machine to perform certain complex functions normally associated with human intelligence, such as judgment, pattern recognition, understanding, learning, planning, and problem solving.
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