ISLAND - An integrated setup for in-vitro optogenetic experiments using AI to localize stimulation with a feedback of electrophysiological signals


In the ERC-AdG BACKUP project we would like to exploit optogenetics to write engrams in neuronal cultures in-vitro. ISLAND aims at developing an integrated and intelligent platform which should allow to write and read engrams in neuronal cultures.

The reading part of the setup will be done by sampling the electrophysiological activity of the culture using microelectrode array (MEA) technology which is highly time- and space- resolved. The writing part will be executed by optogenetic techniques using an optical setup allowing spatially-patterned light such as digital light processor (DLP) or integrated photonic circuit (IPC).

The core of ISLAND will be to integrate those two parts in a closed-loop, by developing processing and control units. The processing unit will collect the electrical signals from MEA as a feedback of the neuronal activity and will map the neurons in the network according to their electrophysiological activity. The control system will then activate the corresponding pattern of stimuli in the optical setup according to the network’s map and the assignment.

ISLAND is a strong multidisciplinary project combining neuroscience, electronics and photonics with the usage of Deep-Learning techniques.



ALPI:  All optical signal recovery by Photonic neural network Integrated in a transceiver module


ALPI aims at the integration of a photonic neural network within an optical transceiver to increase the transmission capacity of the optical link. Based on a deep learning approach, the new compact device provides real time compensation of fiber nonlinearities, which degrade optical signals. In fact, the tremendous growth of transmission bandwidth both in optical networks as well as in data centers is baffled by the optical fiber nonlinear Shannon capacity limit. 

Nowadays, computational intensive approaches based on power hungry software are commonly used to mitigate fiber nonlinearities. Here, we propose to integrate in the optical link the neuromorphic photonic circuits, which we are currently developing in the ERC-AdG BACKUP project. Specifically, the proposed error-correction circuit implements a small all-optical complex-valued neural network, which is able to recover distortion on the optical transmitted data caused by the Kerr nonlinearities in multiwavelength optical fibers. Network training is realized by means of efficient gradient-free methods using a properly designed data-preamble.
A new neuromorphic transceiver demonstrator realized in active hybrid Si/InP technology will be designed, developed and tested on a 100 Gbps 80 km long optical link with multiple-levels symbols.

The integrated neural network will mitigate the nonlinearities either by precompensation/autoencoding at the transmitter TX side or by data correction at the receiver RX side or by concurrently acting on both the TX and RX sides. This achievement will bear to the second ALPI’s goal: moving from the demonstrator to the industrialization of the improved transceiver. For this purpose, patents will be filed and a business plan will be developed in partnership with semiconductor, telecom and IT companies where a path to the commercialization will be individuated. The foreseen market is the big volume market of optical interconnection in large data centers or metro networks.


EPIQUS: Electronic-photonic integrated quantum simulator platform


EPIQUS aims to demonstrate a cheap, easy-to-use, performant Quantum Simulator (QS) based on full integration of silicon nitride photonics with silicon electronics. The core objective of EPIQUS is to set a cornerstone technology – demonstrate the
first breakthrough device - which will simulate quantum mechanical problems in a compact device operating at ambient temperatures.
Our vision is to develop a Quantum Simulator by bringing onto a unique semiconductor platform the mature silicon microelectronic (CMOS, digital) and the silicon nitride quantum micro-photonic functionalities. Within EPIQUS we will develop a 3D-integrated quantum simulator hardware, where (1) a photonic quantum interference circuit, hosting (1a) scalable entangled photon sources (pumped by a NIR pulsed diode laser to produce on-chip photon pairs via nonlinear four wave mixing), (1b) the state
preparation stage and (1c) the 16 qubit reconfigurable quantum interference circuit, will be monolithically integrated on the same Si chip with (2) scalable arrays of single photon avalanche detectors (Silicon SPADs) operating at ~ 850nm and at
room temperatures. Around this, our consortium will build an integrated system, in which on the “software level” a quantum algorithm will sustain the quantum simulation results from the hardware. In this last, a custom Analog chip will control the QS
module by managing the pulsed pump laser, phase shifters (needed to reconfigure the QS) and the SPADs in order to control actively the quantum optical circuit. Finally, the output data will be handled by the digital chip to feed the software
algorithm. EPIQUS will envision scalability up to 50 qubits using the proposed breakthrough technology.
The EPIQUS consortium will be based on several groups from EU countries and one non-EU partner with diverse expertise, ranging from material, device, photonic and electronic circuit engineering, microfabrication technology, quantum optics and
spectroscopy, information technologies.

LESSO: Laser etero-integrato a stato solido per trappole ottiche

Atomic clocks are sophisticate instruments used for extremely precise measurements of time.  While a high quality wristwatch measures the time with an accuracy of about 5 seconds per year ultraprecise atomic clocks (strontium clock NIST 2015) measure the time with an accuracy of 1 second in 15 billions of years. In modern measurement systems used in metrology, measuring the time with high accuracy, allows also to measure the position with accuracy. For these reason atomic clocks find application as reference  in navigation and position systems like GPS.

One of the critical components of an optical atomic clock are high performance lasers. The emitted light of such lasers has to be “ultra-pure” in colour and extremely stable over time. In the core of the atomic clock the emission of these lasers is then used to analyse and to manipulate atomic transitions of single isolated cold atoms – in our specific case the atom strontium.

Today a relatively compact optical atomic clock has a volume of about 2 m3. Especially for space missions much more compact optical atom clock will represent an enormous advantage.  The project consortium - formed by the Bruno Kessler Foundation, the Department of Physics of the University of Pisa, the Physics Department of the University of Trento and Atomsensor SRL - aims on the radical miniaturisation of one of the components of the atomic clock, namely the laser source used to manipulate the strontium atoms. The key to the miniaturisation is the integration of laser-crystals, grown by the Physics Department of Pisa, with tiny optical circuits realised with silicon microfabrication technology (the same technology allowed the radical miniaturisation of components nowadays used in computers, smartphones, and consumer electronics etc.). The core of the laser will have a volume of some tens of cubic centimetres and its performance will be tested at the atomic clock of Atomsensor SRL in Florence, Italy.

PELM: Photonic Extreme Learning Machine: from neuromorphic computing to universal optical interpolant, strain gauge sensor and cancer morphodynamic monitor.

The PELM project aims at demonstrating machine learning photonic devices. Within a single neuromorphic computing architecture, different platforms are specialized to given tasks by their specific characteristics. Starting from a common theoretical algorithm where matrices of optical computational nodes constitute a neural network, innovative proof-of-concept prototypes are realized such as:

  1. Silicon integrated sequence of optical micro-ring resonators for photonic neuromorphic computing;
  2. Semiconductor nanowire metasurfaces for arbitrary optical function synthesis suitable for flat lenses in computer tablet or smartphone applications;
  3. Liquid polymeric droplet whispering gallery mode resonator for sensitive strain gauge sensing;
  4. Biological spherical resonators for cancer detection and morphodynamics monitoring.

The unique combination of skilled physicists, engineers and biologists- from both universities and research centers- guarantees the achievement of these ambitious goals. Complementary competences in photonic integrated devices, complex systems, linear and nonlinear optical measurements, bio-physics, and semiconductor technology allow developing various platforms for the photonic extreme learning machines and their validation on killer applications.



QRANGE: Quantum Random Number Generators: cheaper, faster and more secure
The generation of random numbers plays a crucial role in many applications in science and impacting society, in particular for simulation and cryptography. It is of fundamental importance that the generated numbers are truly random, as any deviation may adversely effect modelling or jeopardise security. Notably, recent breaches of cryptographic protocols have exploited weaknesses in the random number generation. In this context, schemes exploiting the inherent randomness of quantum physics have been extensively investigated. Quantum random number generation (QRNG) devices are now commercially available, which arguably represents one of the most successful developments of quantum technologies so far.
QRANGE wants to push the QRNG technology further, allowing for a wide range of commercial applications of QRNG. We will build three different prototypes, which are cheaper, faster and more secure than existing devices: i) A fully integrated low-cost QRNG based on standard CMOS technology with a cost of the order of 1€ for IoT. ii) A high-speed phase-diffusion scheme based on the interference of laser pulses with random phase relationship featuring bit rates of up to 10Gb/s. iii) Inspired by device independent schemes, a self-testing QRNG, which allows for a continuous estimation of the generated entropy, with few assumptions on the devices. Moreover, we will make considerable theoretical effort for modelling the devices, designing efficient randomness extractors and studying new semi device-independent concepts. Last but not least, we will work together with the competent institutions towards a full certification scheme of QRNG devices compliant with the highest security standards. This project addresses many key points in the call and is well-aligned with the vision and objectives of the Quantum Technologies Flagship, especially in terms of taking quantum technologies from the laboratory to industry with concrete prototype applications and marketable products.

BACKUP: Unveiling the relationship between brain connectivity and function by integrated photonics


Objectives BACKUP tackles the challenges of realizing a hybrid neuromorphic intelligent network where photonic circuitry provides both the core computing power as well as the interface to biological neurons and electronic circuitry provides both the required I/O control and the platform where algorithms (i.e., deep learning networks) emulate the biological network. After realizing a massive reservoir-computing photonic network based on a complex topology and a neuron/integrated photonic circuit interface where light controls both the topological connections (synapses) and the activity of the biological neurons, BACKUP will develop:
1. dynamic memories in photonic integrated circuits (PIC) using reservoir-computing network (RCN);
2. time-series forecasting for both noisy and chaotic inputs;
3. an artificial network (software-implemented) which emulates the physical hybrid network;
4. a hybrid network where biologic and artificial networks collaborate to jointly solve computation tasks;
5. artificial memory engrams to understand the cellular base of memory and the neuronal plasticity during learning;
6. hybrid circuits controlling neuronal hyperexcitability and seizure-induced plastic changes.
All these are extremely high-risk activities with extremely groundbreaking objectives. However, strong scientific and societal motivations – the limit of standard computers and the impact of neurological disorders on the population – motivate this research.
Recent progresses in photonics, computer science, deep learning, time series analysis, optogenetics and neurophysiology support my ambitions.

ITPAR: A cheap, light, compact source for QKD based on intraparticle entanglement in an integrated photonic circuit (2018-2021)

The aim of this project is to develop the theory, validate the principles, design the optical system and demonstrate a quantum key distribution optical link based on the innovative concept of intra-particle entanglement. An integrated source of a quantum key in a silicon chip will be fabricated and inserted into an optical fiber communications system to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept. The innovation is both on the conceptual aspect of using a single particle for quantum key distribution, on the use of an incoherent light source to generate the entangled state as well as demonstrating quantum key distribution using a single particle based intra-particle entanglement.



Q@TN - Quantum Science and Technology in Trento

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  1. Aligning all Trentino actors in the field of quantum science and technology (QST) and developing a common strategy
  2. Covering most aspects of QST merging the relevant expertise of the Partner Institutions
  3. Singling out Trentino as a reference point at European level in the area of QST

Q@TN operates within the framework of the newly launched Quantum Technologies Flagship. Q@TN coordinates the scientific and technological research and the high education in QST in Trentino, increasing the impact of the activity already carried out by local researchers in strategic areas of quantum science. Q@TN aims to attract further resources from national and international funding organisations.