Optical fibres lie at the very heart of modern society, providing the information superhighways required within our global communication systems. The first demonstrations of light guidance within an optical fibre took place in the early 1960’s, yet as the result of much ingenuity and sustained funding by the telecommunications industry, within little over 30 years the transmission capacity of a single fibre has been increased from just the few kbit/s required for a single telephone link to over 10Tbit/s – sufficient bandwidth to support more than 250 million simultaneous telephone conversations, or more than 100,000 broadband connections operating at 10Mbit/s.
The development of low loss fibre and the erbium doped fibre amplifier (both pioneered at Southampton), has seen the elimination of attenuation as the primary limitation to transmission, allowing high capacity data transfer over transcontinental distances.
Research into fibre technology has been a critical enabler to the past development of communication systems, and continued effort will be required to develop the core, metro and access networks of the future needed to deliver exciting new high bandwidth applications such as high definition TV, interactive gaming, and video-on-demand directly via fibre to the subscriber premises. There has clearly been a massive investment in optical fibre telecommunications technology over the years. Major breakthroughs have been made in manufacturing processes, as well as in both component and system concepts and there is now a growing worldwide interest in exploring how different aspects of this exciting technology can be used in other areas of major scientific and industrial significance.
The Fibres and Communications Division of the Optoelectronics Research Centre is led by Professor Periklis Petropoulos. Its role is to develop the fibres, fibre devices, and system concepts required for next generation telecommunication systems, and to investigate new applications of the technology in areas beyond telecommunications including amongst others: high power lasers, industrial materials processing, aerospace, biology, sensing, nonlinear optics and fundamental physics.
The Division’s research can be broadly categorised into the following main technological areas:
However, it is to be appreciated that the boundaries between these research areas are very ill-defined, and that our work often extends to many seemingly disparate fields of application. Work within the Division is ostensibly conducted within various distinct groups, although the membership and boundaries between these groups are deliberately ill-defined and flexible (as they are throughout the ORC), facilitating internal collaboration, cross-fertilisation of ideas, and the ready building of teams with the full range of capabilities required to undertake interdisciplinary projects.