Australia-Israel collaboration achieves first nanophotonic topological system

Silicon Chip

Dr Blanco-Redondo with a silicon photonic chip

Ben and Andrea

Professor Eggleton and Dr Blanco-Redondo at the Sydney Nanoscience Hub


An international team of researchers from the Australian Research Centre of Excellence CUDOS (Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems) at the University of Sydney and Technion - Israel Institute of Technology have demonstrated the first topologically protected waveguiding in a silicon nanophotonic platform.

The research findings published today in Physical Review Letters are a key advance towards the development of robust optical circuits that has the potential of enabling large-scale optical integration and quantum information processing.

CUDOS lead researcher, Dr Andrea Blanco-Redondo said “this result highlights a path forward that will allow for achieving desired photonic chip performance even in the presence of unavoidable fabrication imperfections.”

The team at Technion, led by Professor Moti Segev and the group at the University of Sydney, led by Professor Ben Eggleton, CUDOS Director, have collaborated since December 2013 to create on-chip photonic topological insulators for optical interconnects that are robust against fabrication disorder.

The work builds on the breakthrough research of Associate Prof. Mikael Rechtsman, formerly of Technion, who opened up a whole new area of study with the demonstration of the first photonic topological insulator in 2013.

Since this discovery, all experiments on topological phenomena in photonics remained at the level of a proof-of-concept - none of them was in a technologically viable platform until now. The joint project between CUDOS and the Technion aims to achieve a big step towards technology that will dramatically increase the bandwidth and processing speed of next generation computers.

“Topological photonics is a new paradigm in optical sciences and promises completely new functionalities and properties that will enhance photonic circuits. This project, which was supported by the Technion Society of Australia and the NSW Department of Industry, highlights the globalization of research and innovation,” said Prof. Eggleton.

They were also able to demonstrate that in a system where topological and trivial defect modes exist, researchers can probe them independently. Professor Segev said the research opens up a new area of study using concepts of topological insulators in actual technology, not only in photonics, but universally, in various other areas of physics.

“What we did here provides deeper understanding of the nature of topologically protected transport in photonic systems, and suggests such phenomena in other physical systems, such as condensed matter physics or atomic physics – wherever topological and trivial states coexist,” he said.