Recent Review Papers

Just a quick update to highlight a couple of review papers that have come out in the past two months. both Open Access, so take a look!

“Shortcuts to adiabaticity (STA) in waveguide couplers – theory and implementation”, published last month in Advances in Physics: X, is a review and comparison of various STA techniques. We compared various theoretical STA treatments with full numerical simulations, concentrating on realistic two-waveguide systems which are key building blocks for photonic circuits. Adam Taras and Musawer Bajwa worked on this as part of a third year Interdisciplinary Special Project, co-supervised with Martijn de Sterke and Chris Poulton, in collaboration with Judith Dawes and Vincent Ng.

My first single-author paper, a Review article on “Nanoscale nonlinear plasmonics in photonic waveguides and circuits”, was published just yesterday in the historic journal La Rivista del Nuovo Cimento. I wrote this tutorial-style review to introduce readers to theoretical and experimental aspects of nonlinear plasmonics in the context of optical waveguides with an eye on photonic circuits. I hope it will be a useful entry point for anyone interested in a conceptual toolkit to enter this field.


As the year draws to a close, thought I’d provide a small update with some (non-exhaustive) 2020 highlights: a representative selection of events that played a part in this unusual year.

January/February: Work proceeds as normal. Quite the highlight, given what follows.

March: The course I am co-coordinating, Phys3888 (and its Data3888 partner) moves online with the rest of the world – particularly challenging for an experimental multidisciplinary course such as this. Thanks to the amazing work of colleagues Ben Fulcher and Jean Yang, and our life-saving tutors Alison Wong and Zoe Stawyskyj, I think this transition worked out incredibly well.

May: “Modular nonlinear hybrid plasmonic circuit” is published in Nature Communications – I proposed this work as Oliver Bickerton’s Honours Project all the way back in 2018, great to see it picked up by a few news sites.

June: My DECRA begins, and I become director of the Sydney Terahertz Laboratory – currently installing a few upgrades! For a quick virtual lab tour, I made a silly video.

July: I have the pleasure of giving an MQ Photonics seminar on my recent research – thanks Mikolaj and Judith for the invitation!

August: I give two virtual contributed talks and one poster at CLEO Pac Rim 2020 in its online-only format, on the topics of effective PT-symmetries and fiber plasmonics, the nonlinear coefficient of lossy waveguides, and measurements of the nonlinear response of gold. On a related note, “Pulse length dependent near-infrared ultrafast nonlinearity of gold by self-phase modulation” is published in APL – this work used background-free self-phase modulation to measure the nonlinear susceptibility as a function of pulse duration in the sub-picosecond range.

September: “Establishing the nonlinear coefficient for extremely lossy waveguides” is published in Optics Letters. There are a few analytical expressions for the nonlinear coefficient in lossy plasmonic waveguides, and as part of Gordon Li’s honours project (he’s now PhD student at Caltech), we compared them with full simulations and established which one works best.

I also give a (virtual) invited talk at EOSAM 2020, “Crossing the exceptional point in a fiber-plasmonic waveguide.”

October: “Scalable Functionalization of Optical Fibers Using Atomically Thin Semiconductors” is published in Advanced Materials. The product of a German-Australian collaboration led by Falk Eilenberger from the IAP (Jena), this work shows that semiconducting 2D-Materials can be integrated into microstructured optical fibers in a scalable process. This opens the path towards new applications in quantum enhanced sensing and nonlinear optics. They even made a sexy image that was selected for the inside back cover…

I co-organize and host the 2nd SEMCAN Viral Bytes competition (see the many entries on our Twitter page), and take the opportunity to start a YouTube Channel and upload a few example viral videos with the complicity friend and colleague Andrew Grant.

November: “Omnidirectional field enhancements drive giant nonlinearities in epsilon-near-zero waveguides” is published in Optics Letters. This work followed from the second part of Gordon’s honours project. We took a close look at where the largest nonlinearities are expected for epsilon-near-zero waveguides, to guide future experiments. Some more pleasant news followed – Ben Fulcher and I where honoured with the Faculty of Science Award for Outstanding Early Career Teaching! Sincere thank yous to everyone who played a part.

December: “On-chip Hybrid plasmonics goes modular” was published in OPN’s Optics in 2020 highlights. I also hosted a Sydney Nano Meet the Author online seminar with friends and collaborators Mohammad Valashani and Amandeep Kaur before wrapping up for the year.

And as a final bit of good news for this year, I am happy to have been promoted to Senior Lecturer (Level C).

Ready for 2021.

A Quick Viral Byte

I am co-organizing the SEMCAN Viral Bytes Video Competition (open to Usyd EMCRs only I’m afraid). I’m often told this kind of thing is time consuming, so I made a quick example to encourage submission.. In this video I’m “explaining” the principles behind the modular hybrid plasmonic circuit published in a recent paper.  I also took the opportunity to create a YouTube channel for the occasion: Photuniz! This was a lot of fun, so maybe I’ll do more of these.

If you’re a USYD Researcher (at any level!), you should consider submitting a quick viral-like video.

Logo by Dr. Anastasia Globa




The end the year approaches – I can finally take a moment to share a few things I’ve been up to since the last post! It’s hard to condense 9 months in a few photos, and I won’t succeed – but hopefully the snapshots below give a good overview…


The first Sydney Early and Mid-Career Academics Network event for 2019 was held in March. We invited Prof. Celine Boehm and Prof. Renae Ryan to talk about diversity in academia, which was followed by a robust discussion.



Later in the year, I co-chaired the SEMCAN Viral Bytes event with Dr. Kristina Cook and Dr. Christopher Coady –  we invited early- and mid- career researchers to submit viral content that creatively explains what they did as researchers at the University of Sydney.  You can find some of the entries on the SEMCAN twitter page. Here I am presenting the award! I also had a bit of fun making the event logo…

Dalyell Student Showcase


My colleague Ben Fulcher and I supervised some very talented 1st year students on a Dalyell Showcase project, piloting our 3rd year course on the brain-machine interface. The Dalyell programme is for high-achieving students, who get to work on an open-ended research project. They managed to use their alpha waves to play brain tug-of-war, and also put together a car racing game prototype, all within one semester and no prior coding experience.


PRL_OpexA few firsts: my first last-author paper, presenting extensive theoretical and numerical work co-authored with Prof. Martijn de Sterke and Mr. Colin Huang, which resolved some outstanding issues on orthogonal plasmonic couplers; my first PRL, in collaboration with IPHT Jena; and some new work on Arxiv. That paper is still under review, but I was happy to share my results while I presented them at various conferences. Speaking of which…

Conferences and Talks

Conference season was in (Northern Hemisphere) spring for me this season – it kicked off at the Conference in Nanophotonics in Monte Verita’ –  a small but prestigious gathering where where I was fortunate enough to be selected for an oral presentation. I’m  including the program here just to give an idea if the lineup – Bluesfest pales in comparison!


The following week I visited my colleague Birgit Stiller at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen, where I was invited to present. I took the opportunity to catch up with my collaborators in Jena before heading to FIO for the final leg of my round-the-world trip. This trip was kindly funded by the a travel grant from Sydney Nano…


Sydney Nano EMCR Ambassador

Sydney Nano is rapidly growing, and I was privileged to become the first Sydney Nano EMCR Ambassador for the Faculty of Science in the middle of this year.  We have since developed several initiatives (ECR workshop on research catalysts) and awards (travel award, best paper award) to support our early-career members. More to come in 2020!



The first-of-its-kind 3rd year interdisciplinary physics course (or PHYS3888, for those in the know) was launched in Semester 2 this year. For the first time ever, physics students were involved in an open-ended collaborative project with data science students (who were coordinated by Prof. Jean Yang).  Each group contained students from both disciplines, who collected and analysed their own data, generated by an EEG, using complementary skills from both disciplines. This is unprecedented for a large course (typically, students either work with existing data, or are individually supervised within a research group). Below is a video of some students using their mind (well, their eyeball) to play a jumping game – quite impressive. I will be co-coordinating it in the first semester in 2020, and I look forward to making this course better each year.

DECRA success

Last but not least – in November it was announced that my DECRA fellowship had been funded! This is very exciting news, and will provide me with the opportunity to run my own lab – watch this space in 2020..


OUR UNI-DIVERSITY: Merits and Challenges of Diversity in Academia


I am organizing this event, together with A/Prof. Ollie Jay, via the The University of Sydney Early-Mid Career Academic Network (SEMCAN). We hope to have an open and honest event to discuss several important issues regarding diversity in academia, led by Prof. Celine Boehm and Prof. Renae Ryan – so please leave some questions and comments if you have any, by clicking above.

Register here!

When: Thursday, March 14, 2019: 4-5pm (followed by drinks on a rooftop patio)

Where: Lecture Theatre 2, School of Physics, University of Sydney

Diversity stimulates inventiveness, inspires innovation, boosts productivity, and increases the overall odds of academic success.

However, some people believe policies that actively ensure diversity do not necessarily reward objective academic excellence, and in some cases even favour a less-qualified minority.

In late 2018, a notorious Italian scientist publicly proclaimed that he was the latest victim of a global anti-male agenda – and had the data to prove it.

Prof. Celine Boehm and Prof. Renae Ryan have some data of their own…

2018 – a recap

Six months since my last update! Thought I’d do a quick stream-of-consciousness start-of-the-year recap of what happened for the rest of 2018.


Fast-tracked my Silicon Photonics skills by signing up to Lukas’s fabulous edX course, with a final grade of 98%:


I missed out on the top mark by dropping the ball on some of those early homework questions. How embarrassing.



Dusted off the ol’ pulse-picker (PSIMO Pulse Picker OG8-25-1, which hadn’t been used since about 2008..) and eventually got it to work (a hidden fuse had blown.) This quick video shows me rotating the half waveplate – you can see the pulses being “picked” from 80MHz to ~100Hz. Goodbye thermal effects! Our visiting student Hugo Boiron got some nice preliminary z-scan measurements on gold nanofilms (thanks Hugo!), and more is on the way.

I also drew the official logo for the University of Sydney Early- and Mid- Career Researcher Network (PhysCREAM):


Notice the cream on the shirt and head.


Started developing the new Physics Interdisciplinary Course (Phys3888) with friend and superstar Dr. Ben Fulcher. I’m curating the interdisciplinary laboratory portion of the course, which will include elements of neurophysics and data science. Really looking forward to getting this up and running later this year, I’ll make sure to include more info here as we progress.

I was also invited to the 14th Australia-China Symposium in Changchun – that’s me on the right there.


A delightful trip with many great Australian and Chinese physicists! The facilities there are outstanding.

I gave a few of the third year optics lectures/tutorials with Prof. Martijn de Sterke, and learnt a few things in the process. I look forward to doing more this year. On a related note, I also accepted the offer to teach the Advanced Optics and Photonics honours course with Prof. Ben Eggleton and A/Prof. Stefano Palomba in 2019. So that’s three courses I’ll be heavily involved in this year…

I was the successful recipient of the Research Facilities Access Grant ($3500), to help cover the cost of clean room usage. Thanks also to this contribution, I completed all my clean-room training at the Sydney Nano Research and Prototype Foundry, and started collaborating with Dr. Alvaro Casas Bedoya and Dr. Mortiz Merklein (aka. “Team silicon photonics”) towards developing low-loss silicon waveguides. We’re making good progress, but still some room for improvement – 2019 here we come!


Late last year we finally made our first on-chip plasmonic nano-structures. A lot of design and fabrication effort went into this, but we got there eventually – all as part of Mr. Oliver Bickerton’s honours project. Now that we have this in place, there’s so much that can be done…! Watch this space. And speaking of which, our Oliver Bickerton successfully finished honours year! Congratulations Oliver, thanks for all your hard work.

While this was happening I was working on a couple of papers which…


…both got accepted in the same month.

1) A. Tuniz, H. Schneidewind, J. Dellith, S. Weidlich, and M. A. Schmidtet al., “Nanoapertures without Nanolithography”, ACS Photonics (2018).



Some of the data in this paper was taken just before I left Jena. It took a lot of work to do the modelling and some follow-up experimental characterization, it was worth it – we show a simple way of making metal nanoapertures on a fiber without any kind of lithographic step, and also provide some important guidelines. This work was also presented here at the University of Sydney as part of the Institute of Photonics and Optical Science “Impact Fest”.

2) V. Ng, A. Tuniz, J. Dawes, and C. Martijn de Sterke, “Insights from a systematic study of crosstalk in adiabatic couplers”, OSA Continuum (in production).

This one was just accepted (no hyperlink yet), and comes from a collaboration with our good friends at Macquarie University. This theoretical/numerical work is particularly enjoyable, and we’re learning a lot about adiabatic mode conversion. Even though one of the first papers to look at this topic thoroughly (at least for optical waveguides) was published in 1955, this systematic study shows that there’s still quite a lot to be understood.

It’s the first time I publish in either of these journals (unsurprisingly, also because 2018 was the inaugural year of OSA continuum.)


December also featured Oliver presented his honours work at the AIP congress. Michelle Wang, co-supervised last summer with international media sensation Dr. Birgit Stiller, also presented a poster on Brillouin Plasmonics. Looking forward to working more on this.

Finally I should also mention that, thanks to the successful grant applications of several distinguished colleagues, we have had two amazing pieces of equipment come in this year: the first is the super-fast-and-very-impressive TeraK15 terahertz time-domain-spectroscopy system (its speed and compactness puts our old system to shame), and the other is the neaSNOM microscope, which will finally let us do our own complete near-field characterization of nanophotonic devices. Side by side, these two behemoths give us insane experimental characterization capabilities.

This is by no means an exhaustive summary – other things are happening, with much of it getting lost in the excitement. I’m really looking forward to 2019!

Review paper online!


interfacing-fibers-with-plasmonic-nanoconcentratorsNew invited review paper is online! I wanted to survey the state-of-the-art in fiber plasmonics – for conveniently confining and enhancing light on a fiber tip. As I started working in this field a few years ago, I thought it would have been good to compare systems which, although sharing a platform and an objective, can be quite different from each other. See below!

A. Tuniz and M. A. Schmidt, “Interfacing optical fibers with plasmonic nanoconcentrators”, Nanophotonics 7, 1279–1298 (2018)


Nonlinear fiber plasmonics: new paper in Physical Review Applied


My work on self-recovering long-range surface plasmons in gold-filled optical fibers was recently published in Phys. Rev. Applied! It’s satisfying to see that my original goal of measuring ultrafast nonlinear plasmonic effects on gold nanowires within optical fibers – which formed the crux of my original Humboldt Fellowship to Jena – has come to fruition. Since my original proposal was written in 2014 there has been quite a lot of great work in this field! One of the greatest problems for plasmonic propagation in nanowires in fibers was that, for small wire diameters, the wires break up, and scatter off light at the gaps. As it turns out, if these wires are inside the core of a waveguide (such as an optical fiber), it’s possible to circumvent this, since most of the scattered light is captured by the waveguide, and then immediately fed back into the plasmon! This process is efficient enough to enable measurements of the nonlinearity of gold (via nonlinear absorption) which crucially requires high peak powers to be maintained. Read the article here.

IPOS symposium and SPIE Nanophotonics

Hard to believe the first month of 2018 is nearly over! I thought I might include a couple of photos from two events I attended late last year – the IPOS symposium and the SPIE NanoPhotonics Australasia conference in Melbourne, where I had an invited talk. On the last day I attended the CUDOS Frontiers in Nanoplasmonics Workshop, which featured many distinguished international guests, and was a great opportunity to initiate collaborations. Looking forward to the year ahead (at least, the 11 months left…)

IPOS Symposium, Sydney Nano Institute, University of Sydney

SPIE NanoPhotonics Australasia
SPIE NanoPhotonics Australasia, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne

Nerd Nite!

Had a great time last week presenting a new-and-improved talk on invisibility at Nerd Nite! As usual this is a great way to engage with the local community, this time at the legendary Friend in Hand in Glebe just down the road from the University of Sydney. The other speaker at the event was world-famous Prof. Peter Kinderman, who was in Sydney for The Big Anxiety Festival, and gave a beautiful talk about the fundamental role of one’s environment and upbringing on mental health, which in his opinion (from what I understand) overshadows the role of genetics. This appears to be a somewhat controversial view that managed to stir up quite a few audience members.

I recommend keeping an eye out for future Nerd Nite events. I’ll definitely be going back for more!