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The University of Southampton

Stratophase gets intense with lasers

Published: 16 October 2003

New University of Southampton company, Stratophase Ltd, gets intense with its first round of venture funding. Driven by a worldwide demand for inexpensive laser sources, world-class scientists led by Dr Peter Smith are developing new ways to create, connect and control light, increasing its intensity and even changing its colour.

Based on groundbreaking results in laser technology, researchers at the University's Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) first established Stratophase in 1999 to work for individual customers. It has now attracted more than £400,000 of funding to extend its work towards the international market.

The ORC already has an impressive track record. Its early work on optical fibres helped the Internet sweep the world, and earlier spin-out companies include Southampton Photonics, one of the largest university spin-outs ever achieved in the UK.

Long-term prospects for the technology developed by Stratophase are considerable. Converting 'unusable' light from low-cost lasers to create a rainbow of high intensity colours cuts the cost of high-quality blue and visible lasers significantly, providing better value sources for use in medicine, telecoms, and next-generation DVDs.

Further developments include optical circuit boards that integrate various optical functions into a smaller, faster, more robust package, just like a silicon chip. These miniaturised optical systems enable the manufacture of tiny medical diagnostic tools that use lasers to analyse blood. Other applications of this versatile technology include sensors, telecoms, and avionics.

Dr Smith said: "We have already had more than 60 enquiries from potential customers since putting information about Stratophase on our website. Approaches have been from all kinds of companies working in several different fields. We intend to take a broad approach and work with various laser manufacturers to develop this technology."

The academic founders of Stratophase include Professors David Hanna and Rob Eason, and Dr Richard Williams.

Notes for editors

  1. The University of Southampton's Optoelectronics Research Centre was set up as part of an Interdisciplinary Research Centre (IRC) in 1989 by what is now the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The ORC grew out of the 30-year history of ground breaking laser and fibre optics research at the University of Southampton. With this EPSRC funding, a co-ordinated research group of over 150 scientists, engineers, technicians and post-graduate students was quickly established. Its mission is to blend focused, application led research with fundamental studies on the generation, transmission and control of light, with particular emphasis on optical telecommunications.
  2. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £235 million.
  3. The Centre for Enterprise and Innovation is the focus of entrepreneurial activity within the University of Southampton. Formed in September 2000, the office now employs around 20 people, focusing on the commercialisation of university intellectual property through the creation of start-up companies and opportunities for license. It provides business and funding advice, IP protection and management, commercial legal advice and contract negotiation.
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