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KNI Distinguished Seminar

Tuesday, May 28, 2019
3:00pm to 4:00pm
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Noyes 153 (J. Holmes Sturdivant Lecture Hall)
The Revolution of Silicon Photonics
Michal Lipson, Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering, Columbia University,

Speaker: Michal Lipson

Talk Title: The Revolution of Silicon Photonics


We are now experiencing a revolution in optical technologies, where one can print and control massive optical circuits, on a microelectronic chip. This revolution is enabling a whole range of applications that are in need for scalable optical technologies and its opening the door to areas that only a decade ago were unimaginable.

In the past decade the photonic community witnessed a complete transformation of optics. We went from being able to miniaturize a handful of devices to being able to define and control the flow of light using thousands of monolithically integrated optical components – all on a silicon chip. The main drive for silicon photonics is the ability to transmit and manipulate ultra high bandwidth with low power dissipation. Today there are hundreds of products being developed and commercialized towards this goal.

The field of silicon photonics is rapidly evolving and is now enabling completely new applications, ranging from Lidar to biomedical devices. This is partly due to the development of novel chip-scale technologies, novel devices and novel materials compatible with silicon photonics. Many of these technologies and devices can manipulate light across the whole VIS, IR and the Mid IR spectrum. I will discuss these emerging applications, as well as the advancement brought by these novel devices and materials.

The key challenges of the field relate to the scalability of the systems in bandwidth, size and power. Some of these challenges are fundamental and require innovations that break traditional tradeoffs. Novel approaches for switching, modulating and amplifying light have emerged that can open the door to applications that rely on such scalable systems. I will describe the challenges of the field and some of the recent innovations that can potentially address these challenges.


Michal Lipson is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering at Columbia University. Her research focus is on Nanophotonics and includes the investigation of novel phenomena, as well as the development of novel devices and applications.

Lipson pioneered critical building blocks in the field of Silicon Photonics, which today is recognized as one of the most promising directions for solving the major bottlenecks in microelectronics. She is the inventor of over 30 issued patents and has co-authored more than 200 scientific publications. In recognition of her work in silicon photonics she was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. She was also awarded the NAS Comstock Prize in Physics, the MacArthur Fellowship, the Blavatnik Award, the Optical Society's R. W. Wood Prize, the IEEE Photonics Award, and has received an honorary degree from Trinity College, University of Dublin. Since 2014 every year she has been named by Thomson Reuters as a top 1% highly cited researcher in the field of Physics.

The KNI Distinguished Seminar Series is a new monthly series hosted by The Kavli Nanoscience Institute where eminent scientists and thinkers with strong yet varied backgrounds in nanoscience and nanotechnology share their expertise with the Caltech community. Seminars consist of a one-hour presentation, followed by a Q&A and light reception. The scopes of presentations may range from: recent outstanding scientific highlights/technological advancements, to innovative early-stage research developments, to broader cross-disciplinary topics that are relevant to nanoscience. Each seminar will be recorded and made available to the public via the KNI's YouTube page.

For more information, please contact Tiffany Kimoto by phone at 626-395-3914 or by email at [email protected] or visit KNI Distinguished Seminar Series.