AIM photonics presents PIC developments at U.S. defense manufacturing expo

Integrated photonics technology developed by AIM Photonics was among more than 80 military technologies showcased during a recent Manufacturing Technology Exhibition hosted by the U.S. Department of Defense Manufacturing Technology Program.

The purpose of the event, which took place at the Pentagon last month, was to provide an opportunity for DoD senior leadership to meet the DoD Manufacturing Innovation Institutes (MII) and learn more about their technologies.

AIM Photonics is one of nine MIIs sponsored by the DoD, which was established to drive advances to better enable the affordable and rapid transition of new technology and capabilities into products and systems that help secure national defense and economic priorities.

“As a Department of Defense MII, the technology that we’re developing at AIM Photonics directly impacts the ability of our armed forces to not only function effectively—but, more importantly, prevail—in increasingly challenging environments,” commented Wade Cook, AIM Photonics executive director.


Some of the integrated photonics-enabled technology demonstrated by AIM included:

  • AIM Photonics’ Hands-on Photonic Education (HOPE) Kit, a set of educational chips manufactured and packaged at AIM Photonics intended to help instructors educate and train students on photonic integrated circuit testing and characterization. Developed in collaboration with researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology, the purpose of the HOPE Kit is to help develop a skilled, agile workforce to support the U.S. integrated photonics industry by lowering the barrier to testing without the expense and challenges associated with bare-PIC alignment setups.
  • A portable blood health diagnostic cartridge developed by SiPhox, capable of performing lab-quality blood diagnostics at a fraction of the size and cost of conventional diagnostics. The platform uses basic biochemistry in conjunction with silicon photonics technology developed at AIM Photonics to enable ubiquitous point-of-need and at-home diagnostics, including detection of biomarkers linked with inflammation, hormones, and metabolic/cardiovascular health.
  • A functional PIC-based lidar system built by Analog Photonics to help demonstrate the technology’s broad range of defense applications such as autonomous navigation and threat detection.
  • A 300 mm integrated silicon photonics wafer manufactured by AIM Photonics demonstrating the institute’s quantum-capable photonic integrated circuit platform.

Inspirational photonics

While it can sometimes be a challenge to concisely explain what AIM Photonics does, Cook noted, having these actual items built with integrated photonics on hand was definitely helpful in demonstrating how the technology works. But for Cook, perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences of the event was when a young boy stopped by AIM Photonics’ exhibit with his mother.

“There were a few families walking around and I estimate one young visitor was in 4th or 5th grade,” Cook said. “When I explained how the light in photonic integrated circuits is what makes the lidar system and blood analyzer work, his face lit up and he exclaimed, ‘That’s cool!’ And then, when he readily agreed that he should study science and math if he wants to work in technology, I immediately thought to myself, “Score another one for our education and workforce development efforts.”