Energy Efficient Integrated Photonic Systems based on Inverse Design

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Stanford, California
Project Term:
04/14/2020 - 07/13/2024

Technology Description:

Stanford University will develop a machine-learning enhanced framework for the design of optical communications components that will enable them to operate at their physical performance limits. Information processing and communications systems use a significant fraction of total global energy. Data centers alone consume more than 70 billion kilowatt-hours per year. Much of this energy usage is intrinsic to electronic wiring. However, optical-based technologies offer a promising option to reduce energy consumption. Stanford’s design platform is intended to enable optical technologies to serve in the next generation of information processing hardware with ultra-low energy footprints. The proposed framework will use generative neural networks for global optimization of nanophotonic components, machine learning to accelerate the solving of electromagnetic field calculations, and advanced optimization concepts to calculate the upper limits in photonic device performance.

Potential Impact:

DIFFERENTIATE aims to enhance the productivity of energy engineers in helping them to develop next-generation energy technologies. If successful, DIFFERENTIATE will yield the following benefits in ARPA-E mission areas:


Seek U.S. technological competitive advantage by leading the development of machine-learning enhanced engineering design tools.


Use these tools to solve our most challenging energy and environmental problems by facilitating an economically-attractive transition to lower carbon-footprint energy sources and systems.


Reap the economic productivity benefits associated with the commercial adoption of the resulting higher-value energy technologies and associated products.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Rakesh Radhakrishnan
Project Contact:
Prof. Jonathan Fan
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