The IEEE Photonics Conference (IPC), as the IEEE Photonics Society’s flagship technical meeting, covers a wide range of scientific issues in the photonics field and the interests of it’s members. Plenaries, Invited Talks, Panel Discussions, Tutorial Sessions, Special Symposia, Industry Day, and Outreach Events were available to attendees across the conference’s topical areas.

For the second year in a row, the IPC was held as an entirely virtual event on October 18–21, 2021. Despite the virtual format, the meeting was very successful. It has a total of 328 video presentations and a total of 695 registered attendees.

The technical program included 7 tutorials, 99 invited presentations, and 221 contributed papers from experts in Biophotonics, Nanophotonics, Silicon Photonics, Microwave Photonics, Quantum Photonics, Photonics Materials, Linear and nonlinear Photonics, and Photonics devices, optical communications and optical interconnect. There were also three Special Symposia, including Deep tissue imaging and quantum sensing, Machine learning and photonics, and ultrafast
mid-infrared laser sources and applications.



Highlights From The Technical Sessions

Plenary Session

It was our honor to have four distinguished Plenary Speakers lead the conference. The plenary sessions were conducted in two sessions and were well attended. The first plenary session began with Prof. Paul Prucnal of Princeton University, covering an exciting topic on Photonics for Neuromorphic Computing that explored the advances and progress of the field. Dr. Hong Hou of Intel Corporation provided an overview of Silicon Photonics from the viewpoint of industry, highlighting the current progress and the future directions.


Plenary Speaker Dr. Hong Hou, Intel.

The second plenary session started with Prof. John Pendry of Imperial College London discussing the theory behind photon localization and Bloch symmetry breaking in luminal gratings with fascinating discoveries. Prof. Hui Cao of Yale University presents multimode fiber optics and its contributions to various applications. The interesting plenary talks have triggered excellent discussions and have provided more insights into the photonics world. 

Awardee Session

IEEE bestows its annual awards and invites the recipients to a special session dedicated to highlighting their contributions. The first session, on Tuesday, featured:    • The 2021 honoree for the Aron Kressler award, Prof. Hui Cao from Yale University for groundbreaking contributions to experimental studies on non-conventional lasers, and for pioneering their applications in biomedical imaging, projection, and cryptography.
• The 2021 honoree for the Laser Instrumentation award, Mr. Connor Fredrick, from the NIST-University of Colorado, who shared the prize with Dr. Scott Diddams of the University of Colorado, and Dr. Andrew Metcalf of the Air Force Research Laboratory, for the development, deployment, and operation of an electro-optic laser frequency comb that enables the most precise near-infrared astronomical Doppler spectroscopy.             

• And the 2021 honoree for the Young Investigator award, Dr. Xi Vivian Chen, of Nokia Bell Labs, for outstanding contributions to high-speed and high-capacity fiber-optic communications   The second session on Thursday featured:
• The 2021 honoree for the Engineering Achievement award, Prof. José Capmany from Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain, for pioneering and sustained contributions to integrated microwave and programmable photonics including the  invention of Field Programmable Photonic Gate Arrays.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • The 2021 Quantum Electronics awardee, Prof. Miles Padgett, University of Glasgow, Scotland, for pioneering  research on the fundamentals and applications of optical angular momentum.                                                                                                                      

Plenary Speaker Prof. Hui Cao, Yale.

Student Papers
The Best Student Paper Awards were presented by the Program Chair, Professor Weidong Zhou. 
• 1st Place. Adam Dadey, University of Virginia, USA. “Cryogenic Noise of Staircase Avalanche Photodiodes”.
• 2nd Place. Arijit Misra, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany. “Modulator-based Sinc-sequence Sampled Time and Frequency Multiplexed QAM Signal Transmission”.
• 3rd Place. Xiaohui Xu, Purdue University, USA. “Deterministic Creation of Quantum Emitters in Hexagonal Boron Nitride on Non-patterned Substrates”.                    • Honorable Mentions: Eleni Margariti, Institute of Photonics,
Department of Physics, University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom. “Sub-micron-accuracy Automated Position and Rotation Registration Method for Transferred Devices”. And, Ricardo Bustos-Ramirez, University of Central Florida, USA. “Optical Synchronization Between a Dissipative Kerr Soliton and a Chip-scale Mode-locked Laser”.

Industry Sessions
The industry-focused program was the key part of the 2021 IEEE Photonics Conference. The IEEE Photonics Industry Engagement Committee organized Industry Day, which strives to design activities and initiatives that improve the industrial community’s experience and involvement while allowing members the opportunities to learn about recent industry innovations.

Six sessions were held throughout the day comprising,exciting mix of roundtable discussions, invited speaker talks, and panels. The panel discussion on Entrepreneurship in Photonics featured three entrepreneurial panelists to share inspiring and educational stories, and valuable lessons learned from their experiences starting their own companies. The following session covered new photonics technology developments on Silicon-Nitride photonic ICs and ultra-violet LEDs in combatting infectious diseases, a very timely theme. A roundtable on Photonics Foundries discussed the capabilities of photonics foundries and mutual support between foundries and photonics industry in general, and further enablement of silicon photonics in CMOS foundries. The roundtable was followed by a ‘hot topics’ session featuring industry speakers discussing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence
assisted photonic vision systems, 5G in industrial manufacturing, and optical integration for 400 Gb/s optical communication systems. The last panel of the day was focused on the photonics job market and career development in both industry and academia, including how to plan a career in photonics, how to acquire the needed technical skills, both as a student and later in one’s career, and what are the leading professional and management skills required to be successful. The impact of the ongoing pandemic on the job market for photonics professionals was highlighted.

The Industry Day program concluded with a session devoted to the Canadian photonics industry landscape, despite this year’s IPC being held virtually and not in Vancouver as initially planned. The idea behind this particular session was to showcase the significant impact of Canadian-developed photonics technologies on the global photonics industry and community. Six speakers from diverse groups were featured, each giving an engaging talk about the significant contributions of the Canadian industrial community. A similar session highlighting Canadian photonics academic research will be a focus of IPC 2022, which will ultimately be held in Vancouver.

Another unique program benefiting both academia and industry, in addition to Industry Day and a final touch of Canadian photonics industry development, was the Photonic Inverse Design workshop, as inverse design is becoming a new regime in integrated photonics. Prof. Eli Yablonovitch from the University of California, Berkeley kicked off the program by giving a fantastic tutorial on relevant history, theory, and applications of inverse design. Then a hands-on workshop featuring Ansys/Lumerical’s recently launched Photonic Inverse Design module was carried out by two Lumerical veteran engineers, Jens Niegemann and Taylor Robertson, to discuss design procedure, capability, and illustrative examples. Considering the popularity of this topic, the hands-on workshop was held twice, on the first and last days of the conference, to allow attendees from various time zones to participate. After eight successful conferences, the IEEE Optical Interconnect (OI) was another IEEE conference merged into IPC to enrich the industrial engagement element. Supported by a diverse committee body, the OI section features six sections: one tutorial speaker, 11 invited talks and 11 contributed talks. The tutorial speaker, Dr. David Miller, presented the motivation, history, myth, and opportunities of optical interconnects. The state-of-the-art is detailed by invited speakers from both industries and academics, including the topics of PAM-4 silicon transmitters (Nonlinear Equalization in MZI structures, Two-segment silicon microring resonator), coherent optical receivers, optical switches for disaggregated data centers, and multimode silicon photonic devices. Perspectives on packaging and system level integration were given by Dr. Po Dong, Dr. Jeff Rahn and Dr. Mark Filer. Revolutionized photonic integrated circuits design platforms are presented by Profs. Graham Reed and Daoxin Dai.

Concluding Remarks
Though we could not meet in-person, with pre-recorded presentations and live Q&A, attendees were encouraged to interact in real-time with presenters. All technical sessions were available for unlimited, on-demand viewing for two weeks after IPC concluded.

We would also like to thank all the organizing committee members of the IPC 2021, for their commitment and services. Last but not least, special thank goes to the IEEE Photonics Society, especially to Executive Director Doug Razzano, Ms. Alicia Zupeck, Ms. Danielle Corrigan, and Ms.Cassandra Carollo for their leadership, dedication, professionalism, and extra effort in making this virtual conference a successful one.

The IPC 2022 will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, from November 13 to 17, 2022. We hope to see you at IPC 2022 in person.