Evolutionary Photonics with a twist


Our Research


Video: Andrea Fratalocchi interview on KAUST TV on his research

At PRIMALIGHT we take inspiration from the millenarian evolution of Nature, embedding its complexity into a new class of generational advanced Photonic devices and materials.

The common denominator of all our systems is the presence of different scales of disorder. Disorder is the ubiquitous manifestation of Nature, which is observed everywhere. In Nature, is practically impossible to find two identical units, no matter how small is the scale that we consider. Our brain, which is composed by hundreds of millions of neurons interconnected by hundreds of trillions of synapses, does not show two identical neurons.

One of the most advanced product of our technology, the largest supercomputer of 2015 “MilkyWay-2”, possesses 2^50 memory locations and requires 17.8 MW of electric power to work (www.top500.org). This supercomputer is composed by hundreds of millions of (almost) identical transistors. Our brain, composed by an equivalent numbers of disordered neurons, requires only 20 W of power and is presumed to have at disposal 2^100^12 memory locations. Through millions of years of evolution, Nature learned how to turn disorder into an extremely powerful technology, which is generationally advanced with respect to our best devices.

On one hand, we can continuously improve our devices by using classical approaches. On the other, we can take inspiration from complex natural systems and design a new technology based on them. We believe that understanding such systems is the key to open the next frontier of science, with cutting edge pathways that offer new levels of scalability in energy, medicine and material science. Examples of our research include, and is not limited to:

• Revolutionary process for energy harvesting

• Complex metamaterials that can be assembled on very large scales and enable functional operations in ultrathin layers

• The harnessing of destructive natural phenomena at the nanoscale for the realization of unconventional functionalities for photons

•  Random nanoplasmonics for bio-imaging applications

• “Intelligent lasers”, which achieve high-order functionalities in extremely simple materials such as silica glasses.

Studying complex systems is extremely challenging, and requires a 360 degree approach that involves both analytic theory, massive parallel computations and experiments. Through a large network of collaborators, we expose our student to a wide portfolio of interdisciplinary skills, which we believe fundamental to address their formation as a new generation of thinkers.

Video: Andrea Fratalocchi invited lecture about PRIMALIGHT research at the “School on Nonlinear Optics and Nanophotonics”, organized by F. Capasso (Harvard University, USA), D. Lopez (ANL, USA), A. Fainstein (CAB, Argentina), and E. Isaacs (ANL, USA) at the ICTP in Trieste Italy, 3-7 Dec. 2012.