Surface Nanoscale Axial Photonics (SNAP)

Revolutionary ultraprecise and ultralow loss photonics technology

Over the last decade, much interest of scientists and engineers working in optics and photonics has been attracted to the research and development of miniature devices based on the phenomenon of slow light. The idea of slow light consists in reducing its average speed of propagation by forcing light to oscillate and circulate in specially engineered microscopic photonic structures (e.g., photonic crystals and coupled ring resonators). Researchers anticipated that slow light devices will have revolutionary applications in communications, optical and radio signal processing, quantum computing, sensing, and fundamental science. For this reason, the research on slow light has been conducted in many academic laboratories and industrial research centres including telecommunications giants IBM, Intel, and NTT. However, in spite of significant progress, it had been determined that current photonic fabrication technologies are unable to produce practical slow light devices due to the major barriers: the insufficient fabrication precision and substantial attenuation of light.

To overcome these barriers our group is working on the development of a new photonic technology, Surface Nanoscale Axial Photonics (SNAP) which will allow us to demonstrate miniature photonics devices with unprecedentedly high precision and low loss.

SNAP is a new microphotonics fabrication platform invented by Prof. Sumetsky in 2011. In contrast to previously considered slow light structures based on circulation of light in coupled ring resonators and oscillations in photonic crystals, the SNAP platform employs whispering gallery modes of light in an optical fibre, which circulate near the fibre surface and slowly propagate along its axis. The speed of axial propagation of these modes is so slow that it can be fully controlled by dramatically small nanoscale variations of the fibre radius.

Our group develops the advanced SNAP technology for fabrication of ultraprecise, ultralow loss, tuneable, switchable and fully reconfigurable miniature slow light devices establishing the groundwork for their revolutionary applications in telecommunications, ultraprecise sensing, quantum computing and networks, optomechanics, optofluidics, and other fields of engineering and science.