Laser is the key driver in the field of optics and photonics over other photonic components. Since its discovery, laser technology has demonstrated strong impacts on a broad variety of applications, especially in today's information technology supporting fast growing cloud computing and communication. However, with the limited electromagnetic spectrum available for information channels, the current information infrastructure based on the wavelength division multiplexing is approaching its bottleneck. Novel technologies leveraging the orbital angular momentum of light as a new degree of freedom for carrying information become promising to further advance modern information systems. In this project, utilizing the state-of-the-art integrated photonics technology, a disruptive microlaser technology will be investigated to directly encode information on the orbital angular momentum of the microlaser radiations. The capability of creating new forms of microscale lasing generation and executing complex optical responses offers an unprecedented perspective to advance both fundamental laser science and the next generation of photonic devices and systems for computing and communication. This research is closely integrated with the existing educational activities, stimulating undergraduate and graduate students to pursue engineering career by exposing them to the exciting development of active nanophotonic devices solving important societal problems in optical communication and information processing. The educational outreach activities will also be provided to promote the interests and participations of K-12 students and broaden the participations from underrepresented groups.
Transformative technologies based on the angular momentum in structured light beams can enable the implementation of entirely new high-speed secure optical communication systems in a unique multidimensional space. A critical problem in moving this unique angular momentum-based information space into the communication system, however, lies in the laser sources. In this project, development of new integrated nanophotonic laser sources will be carried out to enable storing and processing information in the orbital angular momentum of photons. The objective of this project is, from a symmetry point of view, to identify the interplay between the topology of optical fields and the symmetry of photonic structures to design prescribed light-matter interactions in microlaser actions. Through the designed light-matter interaction, the symmetry of the photonic system can be effectively tailored to reshape the density of states of photons; thereby leading to on-demand meta-control of light emission at the micro/nano-scale. Therefore, the rich nature of light can be fully explored on a photonic integrated chip including spin (i.e. circular polarization), chirality, angular momentum, and spin-orbit coupling, delivering new forms of micro/nano-lasing carrying a large variety of different and reconfigurable orbital angular momenta.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.