Self-configuring photonics

David Miller proposed the concept, architectures, and algorithms for complex interferometric optical networks [1][15] that could configure and stabilize themselves, based only on simple feedback loops, and could automatically adapt to the optical problem of interest [1] [2] [3]. For an introduction, see this talk
Self-configuring silicon photonics,” Slides icon

The simplest example of such a self-configuring system is a self-aligning beam coupler [1]. This idea can be extended to make arbitrary unitary and non-unitary interferometer meshes that can also be self-configured and self-stabilized.

He also proposed the general architecture (the “singular-value decomposition” or SVD architecture) that allows any linear optical operation at a given frequency or wavelength [2] [3] .

His work also includes the proposal of the “binary tree” self-configuring architecture that is the most compact for finding or setting up any specific beam [1] [3]. These concepts have been extended, including work with many collaborators, to cover

  • automatically aligning to couple a beam, including realigning to changing beams [1] [15]
  • automatically undoing scattering between multiple overlapping beams to separate out the original channels, including realigning automatically to changing scattering [2] [9]
  • automatically finding the best channels for communicating through any linear optical system [4]
  • extraction of individual channels from overlapping waves [5]
  • automatic “perfecting” of imperfect optical components [6] [7]
  • field-programmable linear arrays [6]
  • ways of setting up any “forward-only” network, including those that do not support self-configuration [10] [14] [15]
  • useful topological categorization of interferometric networks [14] [15]
  • analysis of the possible timescales of network self-configuration [13]
  • automatic calibration of complex networks [10] [14] [15]
  • complete measurement of an incoming field, including both amplitude and relative phase, without a simultaneous “reference” field [15]

[1] D. A. B. Miller, “Self-aligning universal beam coupler,” Opt. Express 21, 6360-6370 (2013)

[2] D. A. B. Miller, “Self-configuring universal linear optical component,” Photon. Res. 1, 1-15 (2013).

[3] Patent #10,534,189, “Universal Linear Components,” David A. B. Miller (Jan. 14, 2020)

[4] D. A. B. Miller, “Establishing optimal wave communication channels automatically,” J. Lightwave Technol. 31, 3987 – 3994 (2013)

[5] D. A. B. Miller, “Reconfigurable add-drop multiplexer for spatial modes,” Opt. Express 21, 20220-20229 (2013)

[6] D. A. B. Miller, “Perfect optics with imperfect components,” Optica  2, 747-750 (2015). Supplementary material at this link and at

[7] C. M. Wilkes, X. Qiang, J. Wang, R. Santagati, S. Paesani, X. Zhou, D. A. B. Miller, G. D. Marshall, M. G. Thompson, and J. L. O’Brien, “60  dB high-extinction auto-configured Mach–Zehnder interferometer,” Opt. Lett. 41, 5318-5321 (2016)

[8] Patent # 9,753,224, “Field-Programmable Optical Component,” David A. B. Miller (Sept. 5, 2017)

[9] A. Annoni, E. Guglielmi, M. Carminati, G. Ferrari, M. Sampietro, D. A. B. Miller, A. Melloni, and F. Morichetti, “Unscrambling light – automatically undoing strong mixing between modes,” Light Science & Applications 6, e17110 (2017)

[10] D. A. B. Miller, “Setting up meshes of interferometers – reversed local light interference method,” Opt. Express 25, 29233-29248 (2017)

[11] D. A. B. Miller, “Waves, modes, communications, and optics: a tutorial,” Adv. Opt. Photon. 11, 679-825 (2019)

[12] S. Pai, B. Bartlett, O. Solgaard, and D. A. B. Miller, “Matrix Optimization on Universal Unitary Photonic Devices,” Phys. Rev. Applied 11, 064044 (2019) – Published 19 June 2019

[13] K. Choutagunta, I. Roberts, D. A. B. Miller, and J. M. Kahn, “Adapting Mach-Zehnder Mesh Equalizers in Direct-Detection Mode-Division-Multiplexed Links,” IEEE/OSA Journal of Lightwave Technology 38, 723-735 (2020)

[14] S. Pai, I. A. D. Williamson, T. W. Hughes, M. Minkov, O. Solgaard, S. Fan, and D. A. B. Miller, “Parallel programming of an arbitrary feedforward photonic network,” IEEE J. Sel. Top. Quantum Electron. 25, 6100813 (2020)

[15] D. A. B. Miller, “Analyzing and generating multimode optical fields using self-configuring networks,” Optica 7, 794-801 (2020) Supplementary material at this link and at

[16] W. Bogaerts, D. Pérez, J. Capmany, D. A. B. Miller, J. Poon, D. Englund, F. Morichetti and A. Melloni “Programmable photonic circuits,” Nature 586, 207–216 (2020). Open access link