Wave engineering, Optics & Photonics

Waves, be they of electromagnetic (such as light), or mechanical nature (such as sound) are at the core of modern technologies, due to their ability to transmit power and information. Their applications range from information processing, sensing, imaging, telecommunications, to energy transfer and management. In particular, the study and manipulation of electromagnetic waves is trans-disciplinary and is present in all faculties at EPFL.

Photonics, or “light science,” goes hand in hand with many new technologies and materials. It underlies any technique for emitting, detecting, modulating, transmitting, amplifying and converting materials and optical signals. It helps scientists to perform imaging with optimized resolution, make devices such that photons can interrogate and sense molecules, living and mechanical systems, with unprecedented sensitivity, sense physical quantities in a non-contact and non-destructive manner, build systems to compute with low power and faster speed, build high performance integrated lasers using photonics chips and optical fibers, process materials to either produce 3D structures by addition of material or fine micro-nano structures by removing material, build high-performance solar cells and develop tomorrow’s telecommunications.

Activities in this domain cover the entire electromagnetic spectrum, including radio and mm-waves, for example to develop structured materials, devices and surfaces to emit, manipulate, or detect the microwave signals used in the new generations of communication systems, as well as guarantee electromagnetic compatibility and protection against lightning.

In addition to the extremely broad range of domains and applications, photonics at IEM is particularly aiming at advancing the development of compact and robust systems leveraging the microfabrication capabilities and the development of new materials for either integrated systems or optical fibers.

Key research themes