Owen Miller
odmiller at math dot mit dot edu
Post-Doctoral Associate, MIT (Applied Math), with Steven Johnson, 2012 – present
PhD, UC Berkeley (EE), with Eli Yablonovitch, 2007 – 2012
I have started as an assistant professor in Yale's Applied Physics dept. Please see my new group website (I am no longer updating this MIT site). I am recruiting graduate students and postdocs for projects spread broadly across computational and theoretical nanoscience. If you are interested, please contact me!

Thematic Research: Design and Optimization at the Nanoscale

I specialize in design and optimization of wave systems at the micro and nanoscale. In recent years there has been rapid progress in experimental nanoscience capabilities, but theoretical design has primarily been limited to periodic and metamaterial structures with few degrees of freedom. My work pushes to open the design space—in photonics, elastodynamics, and more general wave systems—through two approaches: (1) efficiently exploring high-dimensional spaces via large-scale computational optimization, and (2) developing analytical techniques to model new phenomena and discover fundamental response limits. This theoretical approach, while emphasizing experimental collaborations, has produced designs and insights including (a) the world-record-efficiency single-junction solar cell, (b) fundamental limits to response in linear dissipative media, and (c) a generalization of the “blackbody” concept in optics. I've briefly listed below major projects; for a more thorough representation see my Research and Publications pages.

Current areas of interest

  1. Fast, automated computational design in wave physics
  2. Fundamental limits to interactions between light and matter
  3. Novel structures and new limits for radiative heat transfer applications
  4. New limits to elastic- and acoustic-wave scattering and absorption
  5. Design/optimization of super-scattering particles
  6. Stochastic thermal emission computations, esp. for solar cells
  7. New optical switching technologies

PhD Dissertation [ arxiv | pdf ]

Photonic Design: From Fundamental Solar Cell Physics to Computational Inverse Design

The first half of the dissertation is devoted to the physics of high-efficiency solar cells. As solar cells approach fundamental efficiency limits, their internal physics transforms. Photonic considerations, instead of electronic ones, are the key to reaching the highest voltages and efficiencies. Proper photon management led to Alta Device's recent dramatic increase of the solar cell efficiency record to 28.3%. Moreover, approaching the Shockley-Queisser limit for any solar cell technology will require light extraction to become a part of all future designs.

The second half of the dissertation introduces inverse design as a new computational paradigm in photonics. An assortment of techniques (FDTD, FEM, etc.) have enabled quick and accurate simulation of the "forward problem" of finding fields for a given geometry. However, scientists and engineers are typically more interested in the inverse problem: for a desired functionality, what geometry is needed? Answering this question breaks from the emphasis on the forward problem and forges a new path in computational photonics. The framework of shape calculus enables one to quickly find superior, non-intuitive designs. Novel designs for optical cloaking and sub-wavelength solar cell applications are presented.