Project 3.3: Nanophotonics Enhanced Systems for the Soldier

PIs: Johnson, Soljačić, Joannopoulos


Project 3.3 proposes to leverage an array of emerging new theoretical developments and experimental platforms in order to advance the state of the art in high-power lasers (in both infrared and terahertz regimes), amplifiers, spatial modulators, optical sensors, and optical image processing. In this way, it will provide new physical systems (that is, basic optical-device infrastructure), along with new design tools, as foundations for many different types of soldier equipment. The key to all of these are advances in photonic design of wavelength or subwavelength-scale (“nano-photonic”) structures—new kinds of optical resonances (such as “exceptional points” and “bound in continuum” states) that promise increased power and sensitivity, new laser-modeling tools that allow the capture of the interactions of complex geometries and gain media, and large-scale optimization techniques that can discover non-obvious nano-photonic structures over large-area surfaces. The resulting more compact, higher-power light sources (for targeting, sensing, and communication), increased communication bandwidth via spatial multiplexing and optical processing, and compact sensors will all contribute to the ISN’s mission by enhancing Soldier capabilities and survivability via the next generation of key optical devices.

Specific goals include: through a planned collaboration with ARL’s Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate (ARL-SEDD), achieve a 100x improvement in solid-state surface-emitting laser power while maintaining beam quality, for applications from targeting to drone defenses; fluorescent sensor technology with 10x improvement in detection limits and/or power and specificity; through a planned collaboration with Lincoln Laboratory, a 10x improvement in optical communications bandwidth by a combination of improved low-noise-figure optical amplifiers and spatial multiplexing capabilities; devise compact, high-power gas-laser THz sources for high-resolution imaging and other Soldier needs through a continuing collaboration with Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC); and through a collaboration with researchers at NSRDEC, gain an improved ability to model and design optical sources and optical surfaces, capturing new laser nonlinear physics (especially for new types of resonances and gain media) and providing powerful new tools for designing thin-film optical imaging and beam transformation devices.