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Simon Huisman (promotion date: 11 September 2013)

Light control with ordered and disordered nanophotonic media

Promotion date: September 11.

Promotor: Prof.dr. Jennifer Herek

Prof.dr. Willem Vos

Assistant promotor: Dr. Pepijn Pinkse

Experimental results are presented on controlling light with nanophotonic media: artificially created mirror palaces on the submicron level. The presence of forbidden energy bands for light was confirmed for the very first time in specially designed three dimensional systems, and a new diffraction phenomenon was identified.

Also experiments were presented on light propagation in photonic-crystal waveguides. By using advanced techniques developed at MESA+ the effects of weak disorder on wave transport were observed.

A high-rate quantum light source has been developed. By changing the incident wavefront on strongly scattering materials, one can control how light propagates through such a structure. In this manner, even opaque structures, like white paint, can be transformed into lenses and beam splitters. It has been demonstrated that this also works for quantum light.

Was your work fundamental in nature?

Yes, it was. Fundamental research in general might not be the most popular research topic in public opinion, however, it is essential for technological progress. It is a fascinating challenge to explore and describe things that no person has ever observed before. In this work we have obtained novel insights in the interaction between light and matter by performing experiments on nanophotonic media. Our research provides knowledge which is relevant to technology in LED’s, solar cells, quantum computing and optical data storage .

Were there key-moments present in your project?

I was fortunate to obtain nice results right away, at the beginning of the PhD project. Somehow I was at the right spot, at the right time, to make valuable contributions to running experiments. I had a clear goal and worked on it in a disciplined way, surrounded by experts who are frontrunners in this research field. The findings generated a lot of publicity and interest on an international level. The early results did influence the rest of the project in a positive way. I was able to study different aspects of light control, and I finished the PhD project within three and a half years.

So, you were literally in a positive rush all of the time?

I was always involved in topics at the frontline of research, working on it with most respected and highly skilled experts. We were pushing ourselves to go beyond the already known areas and topics, which was a very exciting enterprise.

It fits my way of life, and I hope to find this kind of challenges again in my future jobs. Enjoying what I do, will be the most important incentive for my future choices. Also, I am interested in many other areas and activities in life besides performing research. It is important for me to find energy and time to pursue my goals in those aspects of life as well.

What, in your opinion, is characteristic of Mesa+ as an institute?

Mesa+ offers an informal research atmosphere, giving room to creative research projects. In my view, a PhD is responsible to make the most out of it. The opportunities are there to come up with good ideas. When one is convinced of its potential and is really trying to defend his or her ideas, then almost everything is possible.

Furthermore, Mesa+ is a strong institution within the University of Twente. So, there is a stable organization providing support while you are doing a good job.