Institute of Astronomy

Astrophotonics: The Next Wave in Astronomical Instrumentation

SpeakerTalk DateTalk Series
Sylvain Veilleux (University of Maryland)15 May 2019Institute of Astronomy Seminars


Recent breakthroughs in astrophotonics -- photonics applied to
astronomical instrumentation -- have opened the door to replace the large
lenses, mirrors, and gratings of conventional astronomical spectrographs
with optoelectronic components to reduce the mass and volume of these
instruments by two to three orders of magnitude, shorten delivery times,
lower the risk, and cut the cost proportionally. Photonic instruments are
also more amenable to complex light manipulation and massive multiplexing,
cheaper to mass produce, easier to control, much less susceptible to
vibrations and flexures, and best of all, have higher throughput. In this
talk, I will discuss the latest results from our effort to develop
in-house photonic near-infrared (1.0 - 1.7 micron) spectrometers where the
dispersing optics are replaced by miniature (~1 cubic-centimeter) arrayed
waveguide gratings imprinted using buried silicon nitride (``nano-core'')
technology, the leading solution for low-loss waveguides (throughput >
50%). We have also developed highly sophisticated photonic filters using
complex waveguide Bragg gratings, produced on the same platform technology
as the photonic spectrometers and equally small. These novel spectrometers
and filters offer a wide range of possible astronomical applications, from
spectroscopic studies of the distant universe to searches for
biosignatures in the atmospheres of exoplanets.


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