The connectivity of current optical chips has been revolutionised, and a wafer thin slice of silicon has replaced cumbersome 3D-optics! In research led by Monash and RMIT Universities in Melbourne, a sophisticated photonic integrated circuit establishes bridges between data superhighways.
This photonic chip has the potential to accelerate artificial intelligence development on a worldwide scale and offers important real-world applications like:
- Safer autonomous vehicles that can quickly understand their environment.
- Enabling AI to identify medical issues more quickly.
- Increasing the speed of natural language processing for apps like Google Homes, Alexa, and Siri
- Smaller switches for quicker reconfiguration of the optical networks that carry our internet.
The exciting part about this chip is that it is self-calibrating! “We have demonstrated a self-calibrating programmable photonic filter chip, featuring a signal processing core and an integrated reference path for self-calibration,” explains the project’s lead investigator, Monash University ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Arthur Lowery.
“Self-calibration is significant because it makes tunable photonic integrated circuits useful in the real world; applications include optical communications systems that switch signals to destinations based on their colour, very fast computations of similarity (correlators), scientific instrumentation for chemical or biological analysis, and even astronomy. Electronics saw similar improvements in the stability of radio filters using digital techniques, that led to many mobiles being able to share the same chunk of spectrum: our optical chips have similar architectures, but can operate on signals with Terahertz bandwidths,” he adds.
In addition to being able to modify and direct optical information pathways, these photonic circuits also include some computational capabilities, such as the capacity to look for patterns. Numerous applications, including search algorithms, driverless vehicles, internet security, threat detection, and medical diagnosis, depend on pattern searching. However, the self-calibration remains its most important feature.
“As we integrate more and more pieces of bench-sized equipment onto fingernail-sized chips, it becomes more and more difficult to get them all working together to achieve the speed and function they did when they were bigger. We overcame this challenge by creating a chip that was clever enough to calibrate itself so all the components could act at the speed they needed to in unison,” says Dr Andy Boes from the University of Adelaide.