Light at the start of the 21st century tunnel

13 April 2017

PhD student Atiyeh Zarifi provides some insights into her exciting photonics research and its applications.

Atiyeh Zarifi and Dr Birgit Stiller in their lab

PhD student Atiyeh Zarifi (right) with her supervisor Dr Birgit Stiller in their photonics lab. Photo: Jayne Ion.

Atiyeh Zarifi is working at the nexus between physics and engineering, undertaking a PhD in photonics at the Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) in the School of Physics, under the supervision of Professor Ben Eggleton and Dr Birgit Stiller.

“Photonics is the science and technology of generating, controlling, and detecting photons, which are particles of light.

“This area of research has critical applications for the way we build the future,” said Atiyeh.

The 21st century will depend as much on photonic integrated circuits as the 20th century depended on electronic circuits.
Physics PhD student, Atiyeh Zarifi
Atiyeh Zarifi in her lab

Atiyeh Zarifi. Photo: Jayne Ion.

“In my research, I look at the interaction between photons and phonons. Photons represent units of light, and phonons are units of vibrational motions in a lattice.

“The frequency in which phonons vibrate, or the energy of the phonon, depends on the lattice properties. A high energy photon can induce vibration in a material, which means it can generate phonons. The high energy photon loses part of its energy and is scattered in a backwards direction. This scattered photon can reveal information about lattice properties of the material. This process is called stimulated Brillouin scattering (SBS) and this is the core of my research.

“I use this phenomenon to study tiny structures called photonics waveguides, which are 1000 times thinner than a human hair. Similar to their electronic chip counterparts, which guide electrons, these waveguides – called photonic integrated circuits – are used to guide light.

“The 21st century will depend as much on photonic integrated circuits as the 20th century depended on electronic circuits,” she said.

Atiyeh is applying the SBS principle on waveguides to learn about their geometry as well as environmental properties such as temperature and mechanical strain.

“We can use SBS for sensing tiny vibrations in critical metropolitan structures such as bridges and high rises,” Atiyeh said.

Her work is addressing some of our everyday engineering challenges.

“Gaining insights into this movement could allow us to make buildings and structures more stable in the future or to even improve their current structure.

“At CUDOS, we are working on optical science and photonics technology to bring significant advancement in the capabilities in this crucial field.

“It has been an amazing opportunity for me to work in this ARC Centre of Excellence, interacting with top researchers in the field,” said Atiyeh.

These inspiring researchers include Professor Ben Eggleton and Dr Andrea Blanco Redondo, who recently presented the illuminating Sydney Science Forum, Bright lights: The science of light at the nanoscale

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