Q: Hello Mr. Siddique and Mr. Gomard. First of all, congratulations on having been published in the current issue of Nature Communications. Mr. Siddique, you are currently working on your Ph.D. thesis, concerning the fabrication and analysis of bio-inspired photonic nano- and microstructures found in butterfly wing scales. Could you describe your work in two sentences?
My research includes the understanding of the light-matter interaction that creates the structural color in nature, mostly in butterflies and how this phenomena could be replicated artificially using nano/micro fabrication techniques for all optical applications.
Q: Why Butterflies? And why this particular one?
The interesting part of studying butterflies is that you will find plenty of different exotic photonic structures varying from butterflies to butterflies; from Christmas tree-like multilayers to inverse diffraction grating, from 2/2.5/3D photonic crystals to complex gyroid structures and many more you don't know yet. These fancy nano/microstructures are not only interesting for physics, but also hold potential for various optical applications. Take this so-called ‘glasswing’ butterfly for example, which has outstanding transparent wings and therefore interesting antireflection properties potentially useful for different optoelectronics applications. My wife accidentally spotted the butterfly during a holiday trip to Mainau Island in Konstanz and I couldn’t resist studying it. I managed to get several ‘glasswing’ butterfly samples from the island few months later, thanks to Mainau Island.
Q: Mr. Gomard, you are in charge of the Nanophotonic activities at the Light Technology Institute (LTI), and their connection to applications for optoelectronic devices. What is your role within KSOP? What are you working on at LTI?
My role within KSOP consists of supervising the seminar course for master students which aims at teaching how to make an efficient scientific presentation. As a mentor, I am also accompanying KSOP PhD students throughout their thesis, and last but not least I am in charge of the technical module focusing on solar energy. Those activities offer me frequent occasions to discuss projects, internships or research topics with students. Some of them work in my research group at the LTI to investigate new light management strategies for optoelectronic devices. This is exactly the very purpose of my research activity: To use novel nanophotonic concepts in order to have better control of the light and consequently more efficient optoelectronic devices (e.g. organic and inorganic solar cells, organic LEDs, etc.).
Q: How did you get involved with Mr. Siddique and with the project? What is your particular task there?
I first met Radwan at some KSOP event as he is very active within OSKar (Optics Students Karlsruhe), but we started to discuss about his research more specifically while he was performing optical measurements on a setup for which I am responsible. After meeting several times it appeared to be beneficial for the project to launch a direct collaboration, so as to push forward his exciting study as fast as possible.
Q: Mr. Siddique, how did you profit from teaming up with Mr. Gomard and the LTI?
Guillaume has excellent knowledge and experience of optical characterization and the LTI provides the necessary facilities. His contribution to this work greatly improved the quality of the paper. He is always up-to-date with current literature, which l like in particular. Above all, he is always great to discuss science with. By now, we are collaborating for other projects as well.
Q: How about you, Mr. Gomard?
Before this collaboration, my interest for the properties of photonic biostructures did already arise, although my knowledge was limited to some papers I read. Radwan´s background and communicative enthusiasm for the topic enabled me to learn a lot about the variety of such structures, and to establish much more interactions between our respective institutes. Indeed, optoelectronic devices can benefit from those evolved structures studied at IMT if one is able to understand the physics behind them. Alternatively, implementing bio-inspired structures in devices for light management is a hot and exciting topic, which requires expertise in the fabrication and characterization of optoelectronic devices that can be provided by the LTI.
Q: Do you think that the KSOP environment and the KSOP mentoring program enable the interchange between persons with different backgrounds?
KSOP brings together motivated people with diverse backgrounds but who do either share common practices (fabrication processes, characterization methodologies, simulation tools, etc.) or pursue similar goals. As a mentor, I have a good overview of the different topics investigated and I am convinced that there are many opportunities to create synergetic collaborations between PhD students. KSOP is favoring such interactions, but they should be pushed forward by the students themselves. I hope that this interview will show that this is not only possible, but can also be particularly fruitful.
Q: Mr. Gomard, how is it possible for other KSOP doctoral researchers to possibly enhance their own studies through collaborations?
A proactive way to initiate collaborations is to look for challenges at the interface between two research topics. This generally leads to innovative studies and to a win-win situation which is a strong basis for further exchanges. In addition, it sometimes happens that the outcomes of an experiment are unexpected and not relevant for the related study. However, thinking about a collaboration where those results could be beneficial is an elegant way to leverage the research work. This requires being aware of the ongoing research activities at KIT in general, and within KSOP in particular. For this reason doctoral researchers are regularly invited to KSOP events so that they can exchange about their own research topic. The worst that can result from that is a broader culture in photonics!
Q: Mr. Gomard, Mr. Siddique, thank you very much for you time!