In the realm of scientific innovation, artificial intelligence (AI) is not just a buzzword; it's a transformative force. While the general public explores ChatGPT's capabilities, scientists are harnessing various forms of AI to unlock new materials, unveil hidden trends in big data, and optimize technology designs across disciplines.

AI, defined as any computer system mimicking human cognitive functions, has swiftly evolved from a computer science subfield to an indispensable tool for scientists working on complex, multidimensional problems. Among various disciplines, photonics stands out as a field with immense potential for reciprocal advancements with AI, creating a symbiotic relationship.

Yuebing Zheng, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, shared his insights into and recent work on AI and photonics with Benjamin Skuse, who wrote a feature article “The virtuous circle of AI and photonics” in Photonics Focus, the award-winning society magazine of SPIE.

Zheng's focus on nanophotonics and the application of AI's inverse design principles is highlighted in the context of this virtuous circle of AI and photonics. The story delves into the impact of AI on photonics, showcasing how it has revolutionized the traditional 'trial-and-error' approach, presenting a new paradigm for designing multilayer thin-film structures with unprecedented efficiency.

As the story unfolds the narratives of AI and photonics, it becomes evident that the AI-photonics virtuous circle is a pivotal component in shaping the future of science and technology. “It’s a very exciting frontier—a kind of fruitful reciprocity between photonics and AI,” says Yuebing Zheng, “AI helps photonics design, but at the same time, photonics platforms enable hardware for AI in general.”