Novel Photonic Solids for Trapping and Manipulating light for Use in Optical Applications

Web Published:

Photonic solids are materials used to control the flow of light in optical applications, analogous to semiconductors in electronic applications. Also referred to as photonic band gap materials, they typically consist of a latticework composed of two interpenetrating substances with different indices of refraction (e.g., silicon and air), arranged so that the index of refraction varies on a length scale associated with the wavelength of the radiation to be controlled. For certain arrangements of materials, the solid has a complete photonic band gap, a range of frequencies for which electromagnetic wave propagation is prohibited for all directions and polarizations. A complete photonic band gap (analogous to an electronic band gap in a semiconductor) is the key feature needed for many technological applications, including efficient radiation sources, telecommunications devices (optical fibers and waveguides, T-branches, channel-drops, etc.), sensors, and optical computer chips.


Until recently, the only known photonic solids were photonic crystal structures consisting of regularly repeating, orderly lattices of dielectric materials; and it was generally assumed that crystal order is essential to have photonic band gaps. The breakthrough underlying this invention was the discovery that this longstanding assumption is false: as a Princeton University research team has produced a class of disordered photonic solids with large complete band gaps, namely, hyperuniform non-crystalline solids [1]

These new photonic band gap materials, characterized by suppressed density fluctuations (hyperuniformity), include disordered structures that are isotropic, meaning that light propagates the same way through the photonic solid independent of direction (which is impossible for a photonic crystal) [2]. Also invented is a universal protocol and a highly-efficient computational framework that enable the optimal design of hyperuniform disordered structures for the chosen application. 


- Low loss optical waveguides with arbitrary bending angle as optical circuit elements

- Flexible optical insulator platforms for embedding optical microcircuits (e.g. to be used in optical communications and computers)

- Highly efficient isotropic radiation sources and absorbers for information processing, energy and chemical harvesting (e.g. solar cells, and chemical sensors) and efficient lighting devices and lasers.



- Flexible use in optical applications due to insensitivity to direction of light propagation

- Highly efficient source and absorber of radiation for selected frequencies

- Distinctive band edge states capable of slowing down light, useful for thermal absorbers and sensors


Professor Paul Steinhardt

Paul J. Steinhardt is the Albert Einstein Professor in Science and director of the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science at Princeton University, where he is jointly appointed to the physics and astrophysical sciences departments. Steinhardt's research spans problems in particle physics, astrophysics, cosmology and condensed matter physics. In collaboration with Dov Levine of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Steinhardt introduced the concept of quasicrystals -- a new phase of solid matter with disallowed crystallographic symmetries -- and Steinhardt has continued to make contributions to understanding their unique mathematical and physical properties.

Steinhardt received his B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology and holds master's degree and Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University. Steinhardt is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He shared the P.A.M. Dirac Medal from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in 2002 for the development of the inflationary model of the universe, and the Oliver E. Buckley Prize of the American Physical Society in 2010 for his contributions to the theory of quasicrystals.

Professor Salvatore Torquato

Salvatore Torquato is a professor in the Princeton University Department of Chemistry and the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials, and a senior faculty fellow at the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science. A researcher who is broadly interested in understanding the behavior of materials at the microscopic level, Torquato employs the techniques of statistical mechanics to study heterogeneous materials, such as composites, as well as different states of matter, such as liquids, glasses, crystals and quasicrystals.

Torquato holds a bachelor's degree from Syracuse University and a master's degree and Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, all in mechanical engineering. He is a fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and the American Physical Society. His many research awards include the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics's Ralph E. Kleinman Prize,  the David Adler Lectureship Award in Material Physics, American Physical Society, 2009,  and the Society of Engineering Science's William Prager Medal.

Associate Research Scholar and Lecturer Marian Florescu

Marian Florescu is an Associate Research Scholar and Lecturer at Princeton University in the department of physics. His research interests span micro- and nano-photonics, linear optical quantum computing in photonic nanostructures and nano-electronics and spintronics.  Florescu holds a bachelor¿s degree from the University of Bucharest and a master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, all in physics.


[1] Marian Florescu, Salvatore Torquato, Paul J Steinhardt, PNAS 106, 20658 (2009).

[2] Marian Florescu, Salvatore Torquato, Paul J Steinhardt, Physical Review B 80, 155112 (2009).

 Weining Man, Marian Florescu, Kazue Matsuyama, Polin Yadak, Salvatore Torquato, Paul J Steinhardt, and Paul Chaikin, Experimental observation of photonic bandgaps in hyperuniform disordered material, OSA/CLEO/QELS 2010.

Weining Man, Misha Megans, Paul S Steinhardt, P.M. Chaikin, Experimental measurement of the photonic properties of icosahedral quasicrystals, Nature, 436, 993-996, 2005.

Related Technologies:

Princeton Docket # 06-2217, Novel Photonic Quasicrystal Bandgap Materials


Intellectual Property:


PU#06-2217, US20090212265A, Quasicrystalline Photonic Heterostructures and Uses Thereof, Notice of allowance , 7/22/11

PU#06-2217, EP 06824766.7, Quasicrystalline Photonic Heterostructures and Uses Thereof


Laurie Tzodikov

Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing    (609) 258-7256

PU #09-2503, PU # 06-2217

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Tony Williams
Princeton University
Paul Steinhardt
Marian Florescu
Salvatore Torquato