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Airguide Photonics announces £6M of research to improve optical fiber

19 Jan 2022

Multimillion-pound program led by Zepler Institute / ORC, Southampton, for new projects into hollow core and fiber performs.

The multimillion-pound Airguide Photonics programme, led within the University of Southampton’s Zepler Institute, is funding five ambitious research projects intended to yield the next generation of hollow-core fiber technology.

The Airguide Photonics Collaboration Fund is investing in some of the UK's leading fiber optics researchers to make further strides in its research challenge and identify new real-world applications.

Currently, the performance of fiber optics technology is limited in many instances due to the fact that the light is confined to a solid glass core, which places fundamental restrictions on the power and wavelength range over which signals can be transmitted, the speed at which signals propagate, and its sensitivity to the external environment.

Airguide Photonics, hosted at the Zepler Institute's Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), is an EPSRC-funded Programme Grant unlocking the vastly superior but still largely unexplored potential of hollow-core fibers.

New fibers, networks, and manufacture

The £6 million ($8.2 million) programme is exploring the performance limits of these fibers, creating innovative means of manufacturing preforms, establishing ways to reliably interconnect to conventional fibers and devices and developing application-specific fibers while engaging with academic and industrial partners worldwide.

Professor David Richardson, Deputy Director of the ZI and Airguide Principal Investigator, commented, “As hollow-core fiber technology matures the Collaboration Fund is proving an incredibly effective mechanism to empower the next generation of leaders to uncover new areas of application.

“The Fund has already opened up a raft of new, unexpected opportunities that integrate well with other key areas of UK research expertise and investment and is already generating publications and additional research grant income – including a recent Prosperity Partnership grant that places Southampton at the heart of innovative drug development.”

Five Airguide projects

The latest Fund has awarded grants to the following five projects and the Airguide team is excited by the prospects of working with these new collaborators on these new topics:

  • Federico Belli, Heriot Watt University: Advanced hollow-core fiber based light sources for science and technology. Short and powerful flashes of light – lasting only one femtosecond (10-15) – will be combined with the unique guiding properties of hollow-core fibers. The research will determine the upper limits of the light intensity that can be delivered on target, before exploring different frequency conversion schemes. The research marks a first step toward a new generation of compact, robust, and bright lasers sources.
  • Ross Donaldson, Heriot Watt University: Airguide Quantum Communications. This research project will investigate the feasibility of using hollow-core optical fiber for quantum communications at visible and near-infrared wavelengths. An in-lab experimental demonstration with a low-loss hollow-core fiber will be also be performed to verify the simulations.
  • George Kanellos, University of Bristol: Hollow-core fiber for quantum secured short optical WDM links. Quantum communications rely on single photon transmission that makes it extremely difficult to manipulate with conventional fibers. The aim of this project is to offer a proof-of-concept demonstration that hollow-core fibers may be a better medium than classical single-mode fibers for quantum communications applications.
  • Tijmen Euser, University of Cambridge: Spatially-resolved sensing using higher-order modes in optofluidic fibers. The channel running along their centre of hollow-core fibers can hold tiny amounts of chemical reagents. Guiding light down these fibers creates highly efficient optofluidic “microflow reactors'”with applications including photocatalysts for solar fuel generation and production of pharmaceuticals. This project will apply novel holographic wavefront shaping techniques to enable a better understanding of surface adhesion and molecular transport in these microreactors.
  • Marlous Kamp, University of Cambridge: Cascaded Nano-Optics in Hollow-Core Fibers. This project will generate new insights into the interaction of light with plasmonic nano-assemblies inside optical fibers. The work is expected to improve remote SERS-sensing which can then be implemented in several existing techniques. The project has the potential to improve efficiencies of nano-optical applications and may lead to further miniaturisation of micron-scale optics.

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