Lumerical Teams with OFC Lab Automation Hackathon and SMART Photonics to Open New Design Challenge: The OFC Hackathon Device Challenge

Concludes Photonic Inverse Design Challenge at Photonics West

At Moscone Conference Center in San Francisco, Lumerical announced the culmination of their inaugural Photonic Inverse Design Challenge and the immediate start of their next design competition.

Throughout the Photonic West exhibition, photonic designers participated by simply specifying via mobile device the design targets and constraints for a 3 dB power splitter design workflow. These parameters drove a Photonic Inverse Design optimization using the Lumerical FDTD photonic simulator running on Amazon Web Services (AWS). All participants were provided their resultant layout file by email along with their simulation results and design files for their future use. During the conference, over 70 photonic designers submitted their designs. The top designs were chosen for fabrication at University of British Columbia’s SiEPIC fab.

Competitor Farnood Rezaie, Senior Staff Engineer at TowerJazz said, “It was amazingly simple to submit my design. In under a half hour, I received notice from Lumerical that my design was already complete. I’ll be able to use the design files that Lumerical sent me to execute Photonic Inverse Design back home targeted to my specific designs.”

University of Maryland graduate student Sabyasachi Barik generated the best design at the Photonic Inverse Design Challenge at Photonics West, with a score of 18,765. Barik said, “The competition was intense, with the leader board constantly changing, but I studied the parameters and in the end my design topped the leaderboard. I look forward to participating again at the next event.”

Lumerical announced their next design event starting immediately. OFC Lab Automation Hackathon and Lumerical are co-hosting the device simulation challenge. Contestants will compete to design the best optimized 4-channel O-band CWDM using Lumerical’s Python-based Automation API along with their FDTD, MODE and INTERCONNECT products. Competition instructions, event details, and registration are available at

The challenge is open to all design teams and all kinds of design techniques, including Photonic Inverse Design. The best entries will be recognized at the OFC Lab Automation Hackathon event on March 8th, 2020 in San Diego. (See:

Contest host Adam Reid, VP of Engineering of Lumerical said, “The response from the photonic design community to our design event at Photonics West was overwhelming. We have never had a conference booth so consistently packed with customers. They really kept us on our toes! We are proud to continue the engagement by co-hosting the OFC Hackathon Device Challenge. This challenge is a bit more intensive and is team oriented, so contestants will have one month to complete their designs. I’m looking forward to seeing which design techniques end up on top.”


Binbin Guan, PIC Optical Engineer of Acacia Communications said, “We’ve always focused our hackathon on open source Python. As Lumerical’s Photonic Inverse Design is based on their Python interface, it is a natural for our hackathon. We look forward to co-hosting the competition with Lumerical.”

The challenge focuses on designing an optimized 4-Ch CWDM for O-band, targeting a generic 220nm SOI process compatible with standard photolithography. Designs are evaluated by simulated transmission and crosstalk and by total footprint. A manufacturability bonus is awarded for designs meeting the minimum feature size for the target process and demonstrating robustness to process variation. Final simulations of the designs will be performed using Lumerical solvers, which Lumerical will provide to registered participants for use during the event period.

Up to three top designs will be determined based on simulated device performance and judges’ recommendations, including 
1.    Best overall performance (transmission, isolation, & manufacturability) 
2.    Top university entry 
3.    Most creative design

Pure play Indium Phosphide foundry SMART Photonics will award space on their upcoming multi-project wafer (MPW) to the team with the best overall performance. SMART Photonics Director of Commercial Development Geert Appeldoorn said, “To celebrate our increased capacity for prototyping, and increased number of MPW runs, we are proud to fabricate a design of choice from the winning group and to provide them with multiple dice at no cost.”

A limited number of entries will be selected for fabrication at University of British Columbia’s SiEPIC fab.

About Lumerical 
Lumerical develops photonic simulation software – tools which enable product designers to understand light, and predict how it behaves within complex structures, circuits, and systems. Since being founded in 2003, Lumerical has grown to license its design tools in over 50 countries and its customers include 13 of the top 15 technology companies in the FORTUNE Global 500 index, and 46 of the top 50 research universities as rated by the Times Higher Education rankings. Lumerical’s substantial impact on the photonic design and simulation community means its tools are among the most widely cited in the scientific press, with references in more than 10,000 scientific publications and patents. Lumerical enables its customers to achieve more with light and establish a leading position in the development of transformative technologies employing photonics.

About OFC Lab Automation Hackathon 
Lab work is most efficient when data can be acquired in an automated way. Especially when taking measurements over long durations automated acquisition avoids introducing human error and allows researchers to concentrate on the fun part of experimental work. Open source software in easy to learn languages such as Python provides just as much, or more features/interoperability for lab automation than alternative commercial software. The hackathon format will consist of interactive demos and challenges in addition to a short introduction. Researchers with 10+ years’ experience of lab automation will show you the power of using Python to quickly get a lab experiment running and display the measurements in a web browser or GUI. We will learn from companies work in photonics how they take advantage of Python to create easy interfaces to their software and hardware. Bring a laptop to participate in the exercises. Students will show how they are developing new tools to complete their PhD. There will also be plenty of time for mingling and discussion. Light food and drinks will be served.

About SMART Photonics 
SMART Photonics, located in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, is an independent foundry offering production services for Indium Phosphide based photonic components and PICs. As a pure-play foundry, it offers its knowledge, experience and equipment to produce photonic components for its customers, based on their designs. SMART Photonics offers the complete production process from epitaxial growth and re-growth, processing, polishing and dicing of wafers into chips. Its services range from Multi Project Wafer runs during the proof of concept phase up to and including full production.

The response from the photonic design community to our design event at Photonics West was overwhelming. We have never had a conference booth so consistently packed with customers.