How did you become involved in the project?
I have been collaborating with the group of Davide Contini (PoliMi, Dept. Physics) for over 10 years now and throughout these years, I’ve had the chance to collaborate with Turgut Durduran (ICFO) on smaller projects. When Turgut explained the LUCA project to our group, I thought that it was (and it is!) a great opportunity for developing a new biomedical instrument that could improve the quality of life of many people.
Why did you decide to focus your research in biomedicine / secure communications?
Optical techniques will play a major role in biomedical detection applications in the future. In particular, I believe that single-photon detectors and related electronics can give a strong contribution thanks to their extreme sensitivity and great scalability (SPAD detectors can be miniaturized). Besides biomedicine, secure communications and automotive safety are two fields in which single-photon detectors will also be a key ingredient technology in the future.
What challenges have you had to overcome so far in the development of the device?
In the LUCA project, our group designed and developed novel small sized picosecond pulsed lasers with high performance and at a low cost. The challenge was not in achieving the best performance, but in making high-level laser systems small enough and inexpensive, a solution that is not available on the market today.
You develop single-photon counting devices, based on silicon and other material technologies. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using these materials?
Silicon is the best semiconductor for detecting photons up to 1 μm, while InGaAs is the most suitable one for the 1 – 1.7 μm wavelength range. Recently, I started to explore new materials: germanium can be used up to 1.6 μm and can be integrated with silicon for developing complex smart systems, that is using germanium for the photon detection and silicon for the processing.
Have you ever met patients that have suffered this illness?
My mother-in-law had suspicious nodules in her thyroid and she underwent a surgical operation to remove the entire thyroid. Histological examinations proved that the nodules were benign. This is the typical clinical example that we try to solve by introducing the new LUCA instrument, which will give more specificity.
Alberto Tosi received his master’s degree in Electronic Engineering and a Ph.D. degree in information technology engineering from Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy, in 2001 and 2005, respectively. He was an Assistant Professor from 2006 to 2014. He has been an Associate Professor of Electronics at Politecnico di Milano since 2014. In 2004, he was a student with the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY, working on optical testing of CMOS circuits. He currently works on silicon and InGaAs/InP single-photon avalanche diodes (SPADs). His research activity includes arrays of silicon SPADs for 2-D and 3-D applications and time-correlated single-photon counting electronics.