17 Jun 2002
Laser 2001 update: key photonics figure forecasts the future of ultra-fast and ultra-broadband photonics.
Erich Ippen, professor of electrical engineering and physics at US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), revealed his thoughts on the future of ultra-fast and ultra-broadband photonics. Highlighting the importance of femtosecond lasers, Ippen identified key applications that will rely on the latest generation of short-pulse devices.
Femtosecond lasers provide the bright light source that is crucial to ultra-high resolution optical tomography. According to Ippen, medical clinics have embraced this technique for medical applications ranging from retina imaging to capturing real-time, three-dimensional pictures of living cells. Ippen also said that femtosecond laser pulses lend themselves ideally to “scribing” and identified three-dimensional waveguide writing as an emerging novel technique that holds potential for the future.
Fiber communications open up huge opportunities for femtosecond lasers. “By stretching a femtosecond laser and passing it through a high speed modulator, researchers at Bell Labs have produced a 206-channel WDM transmitter,” said Ippen. “Also, MIT has already achieved all optical switching at 80 GB/s.” With this in mind, he is certain that femtosecond lasers are key to the target of 100GB/s systems for next-generation communications.
Ippen is also looking forward to the next-generation of densely-integrated photonic components. MIT scientists have already fabricated high transmission cavity interconnects. “Combining dense integration with new photonic crystal structures will lead the way to exciting new opportunities to photonics,” he said.