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ORC wins €2.75m ERC award for ‘LightPipe’ project

16 Jun 2016

Research into hollow core optical fiber to enable more data, higher power and lower losses.

A research group at the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (UK) has been awarded an ERC grant from the European Union worth €2.75 million over the next five years, starting in July 2016. The purpose of the investment is the development of novel, high-performance optical fibers by Professor Francesco Poletti’s group.

The ERC Consolidator Grant has been awarded to support Prof Poletti’s proposal to develop “revolutionary new optical fibers”. These grants are designed to support researchers at the stage where they are consolidating their own independent research team and program.

The ORC commented on Prof Poletti’s winning this award: “Being granted an ERC while still holding an equally prestigious fellowship from the UK Royal Society is a stunning achievement for someone still in the early stages of his career.”

Prof Poletti told optics.org why the award will help his “LightPipe” project advance a new technological step: “The funding will help my research find transformative ways of increasing the information capacity and power delivery capability of optical fibers. This project aims to develop radically new optical fibers that can keep up with the relentless growth in global data traffic and in laser output power, which roughly doubles every two years.

“In many applications fibers are already being operated close to the fundamental physical limits of the glass that forms their core, limiting data capacity or optical intensity that can be transmitted. The “LightPipe” project will address these global challenges by replacing the glass core with an air filled one, purposely surrounded by thin glass membranes to enhance the light guidance properties and form what is arguably the ‘ultimate’ hollow core optical fiber.”

ORC's Professor Francesco Poletti.

ORC's Professor Francesco Poletti.


The “Lightpipe” project targets an increase in data capacity and power handling some 10 times that achieved by current state-of-the-art technology, and a reduction in transmission loss by a factor of five. Prof Poletti says that the intended outcomes of this project “have the potential to revolutionize telecommunications 45 years after the development of ultra-low loss glass optical fibers – producing a step-change in many industrial and scientific high power laser delivery applications.”

He said, “This award is the recognition of the sustained visionary and pioneering work that since the early 1970s is being produced at the Optoelectronics Research Centre’s laboratories in the field of optical fiber technology. I am extremely grateful to the many colleagues, mentors and external collaborators for their invaluable support so far, and I am looking forward to working with them all on the demonstration of this ground-braking new technology.”

Professor Dave Richardson, Deputy Director at the Optoelectronics Research Centre said, “Congratulations to Francesco. He has proven to be a worthy recipient of the ERC Consolidator Grant, as he takes his place among the next generation of research leaders in Europe.”

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