Camila Faccini de Lima, a Ph.D. student in Intelligent Systems Engineering at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering, won the Best Student Paper Award recently at the prestigious SPIE Photonics West Conference in San Francisco. She won at the OPTO forum in the Advanced Fabrication Technologies for Micro/Nano Optics and Photonics category.
Faccini de Lima is the first author of the paper, Creating fiber-embedded photonic circuitry by liquid-phase structuring of multi-material cores, which culminates years of research led by Alexander Gumennik, assistant professor of Intelligent Systems Engineering.
The paper substantiates the very large-scale integration for fibers, an approach for impairing fiber optics with the capabilities of a data processor, which is anticipated to play a critical role in developing the Internet of Tomorrow.
“I am very excited to see our work recognized by a group of experts such as the SPIE conference chairs,” Faccini de Lima said. “This reinforces our belief in the importance and impact of our research, and credits our efforts to produce high-quality scientific knowledge.”
As the director of the Luddy School’s Fibers and Additive Manufacturing Enabled Systems Laboratory, Gumennik has worked on the VLSI-FI concept since 2016. The FAMES lab seeks to link cyberspace with the physical world -- the Internet of Tomorrow -- by embedding ensembles of nano-transducers and sensors that record surrounding sensations and communicates that to a computer.
VLSI-FI will allow the embedding of optoelectronic and photonic multi-material architectures with date processing capability in the fiber itself. It will enable seamless, parallelized integration between data processing and data transmission. Current fiber optics is capable of the latter, but the former is yet to be demonstrated
That’s a big step in developing the Internet of Tomorrow, which will go far beyond the current network-of-networks system that connects computers around the world. Physical and digital realities will converge so people will stroll virtually through a three-dimensional digital landscape called the metaverse. Using wearable, mobile and embedded computing, people will easily access artificial intelligence-enhanced, cloud-based information storage.
Getting there involves significant research and effort. The FAMES Lab is on the cutting edge of that.
“We started bearing the fruits of our work only recently,” Gumennik said.
Faccini de Lima’s paper detailed how optoelectronics and photonics are embedded into a single-fiber device. Fiber devices use complex geometry to integrate metals, semiconductors and insulators. This enables data processing and data communication through the use of light bursts as bits of information, avoiding information loss.
The Internet of Tomorrow will rely on quantum and neuromorphic computing, which requires an ever-increasing amount of power. Quantum computing exploits the laws of quantum physics to solve problems too complex for standard computers. Neuromorphic computing involves modeling elements of a computer’s hardware and software after the human brain and nervous system.
“VLSI-FI prepares the workhorse of digital communication -- fiber optics -- for the Internet of Tomorrow,” Gumennik said.
Faccini de Lima joined the FAMES Lab as a research assistant in 2018. She previously earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics at Brazil’s Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul. She specializes in quantum sensors and fiber-embedded devices for pervasive sensing and imaging.
“It has been an incredibly rewarding experience,” Faccini de Lima said. “We have been working on this project for many years, and this paper represents a fraction of what we believe will constitute a significant development.”
Faccini de Lima said FAMES Lab researchers are continuously refining their results. That will mean broader impact on the area of networking and communication in the near future, Gumennik said.
“This award is just the first glimpse of the growing recognition of the striking capabilities VLSI-Fi will soon enable.”