UBC researcher Matthew Mitchell wins prestigious Mitacs award

UBC researcher Matthew Mitchell wins prestigious Mitacs award

Matthew Mitchell has always enjoyed working at the nanoscale. The UBC postdoctoral researcher has worked with devices as small as a strand of hair.

His current research, under spinoff venture Dream Photonics, involves microchips that use photons. 3D-print structures are then used to connect the photonic chips reliably and efficiently to create prototypes for companies.

He has been working on this technology with more than a dozen partners across industries. It opens up new possibilities for various technologies, including replacing current smart watch microchips with photonic ones and swapping LED lights for lasers that measure bodily metrics beyond heart rates.The technology can also be used in quantum computing, and applied to self-driving cars by incorporating the technology into the remote-sending navigational system.

Mitchell is also an intern at Mitacs, a government-funded not-for-profit that supports research at academic institutions to solve business challenges.

“One of the biggest bottlenecks in photonics is packaging—figuring out how to get light in and out of the chips in an efficient way so that they can make reliable connections,” said Mitchell in a release, adding that most solutions out there are costly, and limited due to scaling-related challenges. “Our technology overcomes the packaging challenge, making these very tiny photonic chips scalable in real-world applications.”

This novel technique earned him the Mitacs Award for Commercialization—presented to a Mitacs intern for a research idea that is available and soon to be commercialized. One of nine Mitacs award winners, Mitchell was chosen from the thousands of researchers that take part in Mitacs programs.

“What we’ve done at Dream Photonics is take this optical 3D printing technology and open it up to clients around the world so they can see if photonics and photonic chips will work for their cutting-edge applications,” said Mitchell, whose goal is to grow the photonics industry in Canada. “Mitacs gave me the support I needed to focus on growing both the business side and the technical side of this breakthrough.”