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

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 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.