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ECE Professor Shayan Mookherjea Receives NSF CAREER Award

February 14, 2007 -- Shayan Mookherjea, an Electrical and Computer Engineering professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, has received the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is NSF’s most prestigious award in support of the early career-development activities of junior faculty.

Mookherjea’s award carries with it a 5-year, $400,000 grant in support of his work in developing chip-scale nonlinear optics utilizing micro-resonators and coupled resonators. The research may eventually enable ultra-high-speed optical networking functionality to be performed by end-user devices rather than only at the network core, as is currently being done in very expensive gateways and routers.

 Mookherjea
 

ECE Professor Shayan Mookherjea Receives NSF CAREER Award

Mookherjea and his students in the Micro/Nano-Photonics group are carrying out research to develop an optical chipset that will bridge the gap between the fiber-optic Internet backbone and mobile end-user devices of the future – such as handheld notebooks, PDAs, and cellular phones – whose bandwidth needs are constantly growing. These handheld devices must eventually interface seamlessly to ultra-high-speed fiber optics, which is “a very complex problem, but one whose solution will create tremendous value for society,” said Mookherjea. “A live uncompressed video feed from one of today’s cell-phone cameras already far exceeds the bandwidths of next-generation wireless networks. Optics can solve the bandwidth problem, but there is another major problem: tunability. We take for granted that a cell phone can tune its RF antenna to another channel when there is interference from a neighboring user. To do that in optics is much harder.” 

Converting high-speed data encoded in optical signals from one wavelength of light to another wavelength – on a compact microchip – would allow handheld application users to “tune” their optical communications signals in order to get out of the way of other users, explained Mookherjea, who is actively involved in the UCSD division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

At the heart of the drive towards the chip-scale miniaturization of modern nonlinear optics are resonators – mirror-enclosed volumes in which light bounces back and forth, enhancing wavelength conversions or other nonlinear optical phenomena. Coupling resonators for the purposes of nonlinear optics is a new approach taken on by Mookherjea. This approach allows wavelength-by-wavelength control of the optical phase and the velocity of light propagation, which are key ingredients in making nonlinear optics efficient in compact spaces. 

“To really go for the jugular, one must research not only the systems aspects of the problem but also the materials properties, fabrication tools, and the fundamental design of the optical waveguides and resonators,” said Mookherjea.

 

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