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The Photonics100 at Photonics West: Lieven Penninck Q&A

Dr Lieven Penninck, the CEO of PlanOpSim NV and a Photonics100 honoree, is presenting 'Dispersion engineered hybrid meta-surface design for highly compact optical systems' at this year's Photonics West on 31 Jan from 9:40am - 10am PST at the Moscone Center, Room 76 (Lower Mezzanine South). Electro Optics caught up with Lieven during the Photonics100 judging process.

What is the next big thing in your area of photonics research?

Development of ultra-compact sensors and imagers. These sensors will become a backbone of ever smarter devices.

What do you think the biggest challenges in your area will be over the next year?

I think we are on the brink of large-scale application. Two major challenges need to be overcome for this. The first is identifying winning applications where meta-surfaces can realise their promise of game-changing components. Second is industrialising  from small-scale prototyping to high-volume manufacturing. Both are formidable tasks but I’m confident these will be overcome by the R&D community in the coming years.  

What is the biggest personal challenge you have overcome?

I have had to learn to find a pace where I can work to the best of my capabilities and on a level that I can sustain for a long time. I have had to learn when to take a step back to refresh physically and mentally and not take setbacks personally. 

What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in photonics research?

In photonics you will be surrounded by highly bright people - try to learn as much as possible  from everyone you meet. My periods living outside my home country were highlights in terms of professional and personal experience. Photonics is a great field if you want to work internationally and your university or early career years are the best time to do so. Finally, spend some time to figure out what kind of work environment works best for you: small or large organisation, academic or industrial.

Who has been the biggest help to you in your career?

I owe a great deal to my PhD supervisor, Professor Kristiaan Neyts. As well as the experience built up outside of academic and professional life through community volunteering.  

Who, in your opinion, are the up-and-coming R&D ‘rock stars’ in your area or organisation?

I am fond of the work of Francesco Monticone and Owen Miller, who make great contributions about the underlying physical limits of nano-structured components. Nano-structures can do a lot, but they cannot do everything. There is a general lack of understanding of what is possible, what may be possible and what is impossible.

Where can people find you online (Twitter/LinkedIn/ResearchGate etc.):

I am most active on LinkedIn ( or through our company website    


Read more about:

Photonics West, The Photonics100

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