Shining a Light: Popović Recognized For Innovations in Integrated Photonic Circuitry

Light chip produced by CU Boulder, UC Berkeley, and MIT. (Photo by Glenn Asakawa)

by Allison Kleber

Professor Miloš Popović’s work on building a bridge between electronics and photonics, which spans more than a decade, has been recognized with a 2021 IEEE Region 1 Technological Innovation Award. In collaboration with researchers from UC Berkeley and MIT, his team developed leading platforms for the design of silicon photonic circuits: microchips that manipulate light. Not only do these platforms enable computer processors to communicate with light, but they allow for the monolithic integration of electronic circuits and optical devices; that is, they are integrated on a single silicon chip.

 This groundbreaking technology led to an academic demonstration of the world’s first such microprocessor in 2015; that same year, Professor Popović co-founded Ayar Labs, Inc., now an industry leader in developing in-package (monolithically integrated) photonic I/O for high-performance processors for demanding applications, including artificial intelligence and big data analytics.

Today, Professor Popović’s research group here at BU continues to develop cutting-edge photonics technologies for new applications in quantum communication and computing, cryogenic signal processing, 6G wireless, and lidar imaging. The group has been a field leader in high-performance silicon optical component design, applying novel theoretical concepts to demonstrate record performance in various basic building block photonic components, from high-efficiency “grating couplers” for fiber-to-chip optical interfaces to “rapid adiabatic” beam splitters. Popović holds a PhD from MIT; he was named an Innovation Career Development Professorship with the BU College of Engineering in 2017.