Photons, Electrons, Silicon: Caltech's Electric Light Orchestra

Published : Thursday, February 16, 2017 | 12:12 PM

Amnon Yariv, Azita Emami, Kerry Vahala, and Ali Hajimiri Credit: EAS Communications Office/Caltech

Caltech has long brought together masters from many fields to create the unimaginable. In the field of silicon photonics, in particular, the open and collaborative culture of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science has allowed for the assembly of an incredible orchestra of scientific expertise. Silicon (Si) wafers have for decades provided the instruments for this orchestra, but recently, a flood of integrated-systems research has led to applications that have completely transformed these instruments—and this, in turn, has impacted the life of almost every human on the planet.

There are many conductors of this orchestra, but ENGenious sat down with four of them: Professors Azita Emami, Ali Hajimiri, Kerry Vahala, and Amnon Yariv. They shared the history of the field, their current work in it, and some incredible potential applications, ranging from 3-D cameras on T-shirts to biosensors under the skin to planetary imagers.

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