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Fiber-optic gyroscopes to be advanced at ORC through research fellowship

Date Announced: 19 Aug 2019

Southampton, UK – Photonics expert Dr Eric Numkam Fokoua from the University of Southampton, UK, is targeting a hundredfold improvement in gyroscope performance through a new Research Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering. The five-year fellowship will advance the ultraprecise rotation sensing through a new generation of optical fibres that guide light in a hollow-core.

The pioneering research, based in Southampton's renowned Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics, will help optimise key technologies across a range of fields including the aerospace and autonomous vehicle sectors.


"It is truly a privilege and honour to see both myself and this project recognised with such a prestigious award," Eric says. "Gyroscopes lie at the heart of inertial measurement units and there are a large number of emerging applications that require significant improvements in navigation, pointing and position accuracy.

"In the aerospace sector low-earth orbit satellites, microsatellites and some geo-satellites will benefit tremendously from low-cost, lightweight and ultraprecise pointing systems, while autonomous air, land and undersea vehicles also require very precise inertial navigation. If unaided by GPS and relying on current microelectromechanical systems gyroscopes, a driverless car travelling at 40mph would see its position drift by as much as 15 metres per minute."


For these demanding applications, light must propagate in the optical fibre whilst keeping intact the key properties of amplitude, phase, colour, spatial shape and polarisation. The devices must also be immune to changes in the fibre's environment such as temperature, vibrations or even ionising radiation for applications in space.

The new research fellowship will develop fibres that hit all these benchmarks, fabricate and characterise them, and then demonstrate high performance gyroscopes incorporating these fibres.

Improvements derived from these optical fibres could also potentially impact many other sectors, for example allowing a significant reduction of power consumption in datacentres that are projected to consume over a quarter of global electricity production by 2024 or enabling compact and stable laser sources for metrology applications.

The project will take advantage of Southampton's cutting-edge silica/microstructure fibre fabrication cleanrooms and fibre characterisation laboratories, while also drawing upon expertise from the University's Institute of Sound and Vibration Research.

RAE Research Fellowships

Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Research Fellowships are designed to advance excellence in engineering by enabling early-career researchers to concentrate on basic research in any field of engineering. Awardees also receive mentoring from experienced Academy Fellows, providing valuable advice and industry links that will enable the researchers to establish themselves as future leaders in their fields.

Eric is one of 18 RAEng Research Fellowships announced across the UK this week, which also includes Dr Chaitanya Paruchuri from Southampton's School of Engineering.


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