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Eliane Flück (promotion date: 26 May 2003)

Interaction of light with periodic photonic structures

Promotion date: 26 May 2003

Eliane Flueck

The aim of my project was to bring together two fields of research. These fields are “near-field optical microscopy” and “photonic crystals”. With a near-filed optical microscope the behaviour of light can be studied directly in a structure itself, which means we can look inside one-dimensional, two- and three-dimensional photonic crystals and investigate the propagation of light. In this way, we observed scattering phenomena as well as wavelength- and position-dependent light behaviour. The results obtained will help to optimise the designs of photonic crystals.

Could you tell us something about your research?
The aim of my project was to bring together two fields of research. These fields are “near-field optical microscopy” and “photonic crystals”. With a near-filed optical microscope the behaviour of light can be studied directly in a structure itself, which means we can look inside one-dimensional, two- and three-dimensional photonic crystals and investigate the propagation of light. In this way, we observed scattering phenomena as well as wavelength- and position-dependent light behaviour. The results obtained will help to optimise the designs of photonic crystals.

Is there a practical application for your research?

Our investigations help directly to understand the physical principles of photonic crystal structures. As a result, the knowledge gained can be used to optimise the crystal design. For the photonic crystals themselves, they will be probably used in future to replace electronic components. It is already possible to build some parts of networks with integrated optical devices. Because of the fact that light travels a lot faster then electrons the optical devices offer high data rate transfer and speed. The photonic crystal has a high potential to minimize the sizes of these optical devices even further and should reduce the losses enormously. But for an application in computers you are talking about decades of years. That is not only a matter of science and technology, but also of cost.

Did you find working on such fundamental research, the practical application being so far in the future, as a disadvantage?

On the contrary, in my opinion that is the essence of research. The unexpected in an experiment like this is challenging. You can encounter nice surprises. Apart from the applications in computers photonic crystals offer a wealth of other applications, some of them still have to be discovered.

So you did the first experiments in a very fundamental line of research. Are the steps taken and the conclusions sufficient for your thesis?

Yes, I think so. I had to learn that it is simply not possible to understand yet every outcome theoretically. Research is still in its infancy in some parts of this field.

Were you able to discuss your findings with others?

Yes, I think it is impossible to do it all on your own. I was happy with the feedback I got. But since I was the first in the group to work with photonic crystals, I had to work pretty independent, finding out a lot by myself. In the last two years I was very thankful for collaborations with a group in Germany, one in Amsterdam and a third one in Scotland.

You speak Dutch amazingly well, but you are not from here?

I am from Switzerland. I studied physics at the ETH in Zurich and did my diploma work at IBM Research Division (Zurich). I wanted to go aboard for my Ph.D. and thanks to the work at IBM I got into contact with people from the Netherlands. So I took the opportunity to apply among others for a Ph.D. position here. The international experience is very important for me. You learn a lot about yourself in a foreign country.

There is not an immense cultural difference between Switzerland and the Netherlands, but still there are those little things … But I have also noticed that I am neither completely attuned to Switzerland anymore. I think an international experience makes you more open minded, which is very important for research and science.

In my opinion it is very important to be able to speak the language of the country where you live. In the Netherlands, nearly everybody speaks English that’s true, but you only become really part of it when you speak Dutch.

What was the most difficult?

Finding my way. In the fist place, I was not prepared for the lack of hierarchy here. I learned to appreciate the less formal way in the contacts, for examples with my supervisors. In the second place, I had to establish contacts with others working in the same field, mainly during the first two years of my research. I went to conferences and made some contacts amongst Dutch scientists. In my second year I went to the photonic conferences where I established some international contacts and we started some collaborations. For me it was important to participate conferences because they are both stimulating and you get help from other experts.

Did you also give presentations yourself?

Yes, I gave several presentations here in the Netherlands and in the United States. That is also my motivation to go to a conference. I like to tell people what I have been doing.

Did you take other training during your studies?

I did an extra course in scientific writing and a training in management at the University of Nyenrode.

What are your plans for the future?

My contract here ends in July 2003. I will stay for another three months to prepare and submit some publications. For the time after October, I look around for a new job. I have no clear preferences yet, as long as the work holds a challenge I will be interested.

For the summary of the thesis, click here. (English)

Voor de samenvatting van het proefschrift, click hier. (Nederlands )

Für die Zusammenfassung, click hier. (Deutsch)