Integrated photonics technology developed by AIM Photonics was among more than 80 technologies critical to national defense that were showcased during a recent Manufacturing Technology Exhibition hosted by the Department of Defense (DoD) Manufacturing Technology Program. The purpose of the event, which took place at the Pentagon on Wednesday, June 21, was to provide an opportunity for DoD senior leadership to meet the DoD Manufacturing Innovation Institutes (MII) and learn more about their latest projects and technologies.
AIM Photonics is one of nine MIIs sponsored by the DoD established to drive advancements to better enable the affordable and rapid transition of new technology and capabilities into products and systems that help secure national defense and economic priorities.
“As a Department of Defense MII, the technology that we’re developing at AIM Photonics directly impacts the ability of our armed forces to not only function effectively—but, more importantly, prevail—in increasingly challenging environments,” said Wade Cook, AIM Photonics executive director. “Events like this provide us the opportunity to share how what’s sometimes viewed as a ‘behind-the-scenes’ technology is really a critical enabler for a wide range of applications that are crucial to our country’s defense.”
In addition to new systems and materials developed specifically for military applications, other innovative technologies demonstrated by MIIs at the event also included a wide array of next-generation high-tech wearables, superbrewed foods and other ingredients made from biologically derived nanoparticles, lightweight and durable textiles and fabrics made using renewable resources, and advancements in cell-generated tissues that can be used to cure chronic disease and treat traumatic injury.
Some of the integrated photonics-enabled technology demonstrated by AIM Photonics at the event included:
AIM Photonics’ Hands-on Photonic Education (HOPE) Kit, a set of educational chips manufactured and packaged at AIM Photonics intended to help instructors educate and train students on photonic integrated circuit (PIC) testing and characterization. Developed in collaboration with researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), the purpose of the HOPE Kit is to help develop a skilled, agile workforce to support the U.S. integrated photonics industry by lowering the barrier to testing without the expense and challenges associated with bare-PIC alignment setups.
A portable blood health diagnostic cartridge developed by SiPhox, capable of performing lab-quality blood diagnostics at a fraction of the size and cost of conventional diagnostics. The platform uses basic biochemistry in conjunction with silicon photonics technology developed at AIM Photonics to enable ubiquitous point-of-need and at-home diagnostics, including detection of biomarkers linked with inflammation, hormones, and metabolic/cardiovascular health.
A functional PIC-based LiDAR system built by Analog Photonics to help demonstrate the technology’s broad range of defense applications such as autonomous navigation and threat detection.
A 300 mm integrated silicon photonics wafer manufactured by AIM Photonics demonstrating the institute’s quantum-capable photonic integrated circuit platform.
While it can sometimes be a challenge to concisely explain what AIM Photonics does, Cook noted, having these actual items built with integrated photonics on hand was definitely helpful in demonstrating how the technology works.
But for Cook, perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences of the event was when a young boy stopped by AIM Photonics’ exhibit with his mother.
“There were a few families walking around and I estimate he was in 4th or 5th grade,” Cook shared. “When I explained how the light in photonic integrated circuits is what makes the LiDAR system and blood analyzer work, his face lit up and he exclaimed, ‘That’s cool!’ And then, when he readily agreed that he should study science and math if he wants to work in technology, I immediately thought to myself, “Score another one for our education and workforce development efforts!”