Dissertation Defense: Sifang Cui, "Free Space Optics in Solar and Optical Computing Applications"


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Free-space optics provides rich opportunities for a broad range of applications due to their high freedom in optical design, great versatility and low-cost scalability. In this presentation, two distinct applications of free-space optics will be overviewed. First, a cost-effective, light, compact and highly concentrated two-element solar concentrator based on polymer optics for micro concentrated photovoltaic technology will be demonstrated and analyzed. This research will cover freeform illumination design to achieve large optical concentration ratio as well as excellent tolerance to misalignment, optical polymer material study, compensation for temperature changes, system characterization and validation. Second, we will switch to an application where small and fast (radio frequency) free-space optics is needed. The study of an analog, free-space optical interconnect system based on optoelectronic transmitters, receivers and holographic elements for message-passing probabilistic graphic inference in hybrid optical computing will be performed. A full setup of benchtop prototype on board level with 8 nodes has been implemented to deliver converged computation results. Additionally, a simulator of such an optical interconnect system based on physical models has been established and validated which enables the study of more general and large-scale models to get multiple correlations between the configurations of the optical interconnect system and computation results.                 

9 to 10 a.m., Sept. 22, 2022