AirGuide Photonics

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC)

Abstract

Optical fibres lie at the heart of our increasingly technological society, for example: supporting the internet and mobile communications that we all now take for granted, saving lives through medical diagnosis and interventions using fibre-optic endoscopes, and enabling the mass production of a huge array of commercial products through fibre laser based materials processing.

However, current fibre optics technology has its limitations due largely to the fact that the light is confined to a solid glass core. This places fundamental restrictions on the power and wavelength range over which signals can be transmitted, the speed at which signals propagate, and in terms of sensitivity to the external environment. These limits are now starting to impose restrictions in many application areas. For example, in telecommunications, nonlinear interactions between wavelength channels limit the maximum overall data transmission capacity of current single mode fibres to ~100-200 Tbit/s (for amplified terrestrial systems). Moreover, nonlinear, thermal and material damage thresholds combine to limit the maximum peak and average powers that can be delivered in a tightly focusable beam. This restricts the range of potential uses, particularly in the important ultrashort pulse regime increasingly used for a wide variety of materials processing applications

These limitations can in principle be overcome by exploiting new light guidance mechanisms in fibres with a hollow core surrounded by a fine glass microstructure. Such fibres are generally referred to as Hollow Core Fibres (HCFs). Within this Programme we will seek to reinvent fibre optics technology and will replace the glass core with air or vacuum to produce Optical Fibres 2.0, offering vastly superior but largely unexplored potential. Our ultimate vision is that of a Connected World, where devices, machines, data centres and cities can be linked through these hollow light pipes for faster, cheaper, more resilient and secure communications. A Greener and Healthier World, where intense laser light can be channelled to produce goods and run combustion engines more efficiently and to image cancer tissues inside our bodies in real time. And an Explorative World, where hollow lightguides will enable scientific breakthroughs in attosecond science, particle physics, metrology and interplanetary exploration. Our overall ambition is therefore to revisit the way we think about light guidance and to develop a disruptive technology that challenges conventional thinking.

The programme will provide the UK with a world-leading position both in HCF technology itself and in the many new applications and services that it will support.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries of this research will be both the research communities and, in the longer term, the commercial sector. The research beneficiaries and the impact the Programme will have on them are largely described in the academic beneficiaries section.

In the area of commercial exploitation, the ORC has significant past experience and a track record of exploiting IP, both in terms of licensing to users and in the formation of spin-off ventures. In the Southampton area alone, a cluster of high tech, high value-added photonics spinout companies currently employs about 700 people and plays a major role in the regional and national economy. Exploitation will be through the form of IP generated or knowledge transfer. Where applicable, we will seek to exploit our results through new start-up companies, joint ventures or industry-led deals.

Research that has the potential for commercial exploitation will be reviewed on a quarterly basis, with invention disclosure forms documenting the names of inventors and their respective percentage contributions to the invention. Results of the research will be exploited via the University's Research Support Services, who provide valuable commercial and legal resources. We also work with the SETsquared Partnership, a successful entrepreneurship collaboration.

Throughout the course of the Programme, we will undertake the training and development of the next generation of scientists and engineers (starting with 5 new Postdocs and 12 Students) to expand the knowledge and skills-base, and through it the competitiveness of the UK economy. This will be carried out through the institution's graduate training programme and staff development schemes.

A marketing manager will assist in the communication and dissemination aspects of the Programme, to reach out to a wider audience and raise the visibility of the research. Where appropriate, PDRAs and students will be involved in the impact activities as part of their training and broader skills development, e.g., in user engagement discussions, writing of technical reports and research publications.

Organisations

 
Description : Industrial-grade fibre optic component development for next-generation specialty optical fibres (Impact Acceleration Award - PI Y: Jung)
Amount £40,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 08/2019
 
Description Lighting the way to a healthy nation - optical 'X-rays' for walk through diagnosis & therapy
Amount £5,446,592 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/T020997/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2020 
End 05/2025
 
Description National Dark Fibre Facility
Amount £4,900,552 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S028854/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2019 
End 05/2024
 
Description RAEng Senior Research Fellowship (March 2018 - Feb 2023), 'Thermally-insensitive Hollow Core Optical Fibres, RCSFR1718\6\15
Amount £188,960 (GBP)
Funding ID RCSFR1718\6\15 
Organisation Royal Academy of Engineering 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 02/2023
 
Description Research on the optical and laser properties of praseodymium doped fluoride crystals
Amount £12,000 (GBP)
Funding ID RS International Exchanges 2018 Cost Share (June 2019 to June 2021) Title: Research on the optical and laser properties of praseodymium doped fluoride crystals 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2019 
End 09/2020
 
Description Self-organized light in multicore optical fibers: a route to scalable high-power lasers and all-optical signal processing
Amount £821,840 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/T019441/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2020 
End 03/2023
 
Description Collaboration on multicore fibre transmission (NTT Japan) 
Organisation Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation
Country Japan 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Development of a few mode/multi-core erbium doped fibre amplifier for amplified high capacity data transmission experiments.
Collaborator Contribution Systems test of amplifier
Impact Several high profile publications as detailed in individual grant publication list.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with CTU, Prague 
Organisation Czech Technical University in Prague
Department Faculty of Electrical Engineering
Country Czech Republic 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provided state-of-the art hollow core fibre samples, visiting the collaborating partner to teach them how to handle hollow core fibres, as well as help to manufacture components made of our hollow core fibre samples.
Collaborator Contribution Developed a new interconnection technique of standard and hollow core optical fibres. This technique showed record-low loss of such interconnection (0.3 dB). It was also modified to provide very low back-reflection level (below -50 dB) or high-reflection to make Fabry-Perot etalons with finesse over 100.
Impact Two conference papers and two journal paper (Photonics Technology Letters, Journal of Lightwave Technology)
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with DESY Synchrotron, Hamburg 
Organisation Deutsches Electronen-Synchrotron (DESY)
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Providing state-of-the-art hollow core fibre samples to test for precise (fs-level) timing distribution in large physics infrastructures. Visiting the partner and teaching them how to handle the hollow core fibre.
Collaborator Contribution Measuring timing jitter of signal distributed by our hollow core optical fibres using balanced optical cross-correlators (the most sensitive timing detectors in existence today).
Impact We are discussion possiblity of patenting the joint technology. Measurement of jitter with hollow-core fibre distribution has been compared to that of single-mode optical fibres. Currently under preparation for publication.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with Fujikura Ltd on multicore doped optical fibres 
Organisation Fujikura
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The development of rare earth doped multicore fibres and associated beam combined fibre laser demonstrations.
Collaborator Contribution Supply of high concentration ytterbium doped preforms with excellent length homogeneity.
Impact High profile academic papers anticipated.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with Heriot-Watt University (Professor Derryck Reid) on remote gas sensing using Hollow Core Fibres (Aiguide Collaboration fund project) 
Organisation Heriot-Watt University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Supply of mid-IR Hollow Core Fibre (HCF) for gas sensing applications. Training on cleaving and launching light into HCF
Collaborator Contribution Gas sensing measurements in HCF. Analysis of propagation losses and gas content in fibres.
Impact Submission of a technical paper to the CLEO 2020 conference. Further technical outputs anticipated.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with LIG NEX1 on doped fibre characterisation 
Organisation LIG Nex1
Country Korea, Republic of 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Characterisation of doped fibre samples
Collaborator Contribution Consultancy with University/lead researcher.
Impact Confidential reports produced and provided to LIG Nex1
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration with Laval University, Quebec City, Canada 
Organisation University of Laval
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provide samples of state-of-the-art hollow core fibres, teaching how to interconnect them and how to handle them, including precise spooling.
Collaborator Contribution Characterize back-reflection from NANF-type of hollow core fibres, measuring thermo-conductive noise of hollow core fibres.
Impact Measurement of back-reflection from NANF-type hollow core fibres (not published yet).
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with Nanyang Technical University (Singapore) on fibre fabrication 
Organisation Nanyang Technological University
Country Singapore 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Laser and amplifier development work - in particular thulium doped fibre amplifier and laser studies, testing of large mode area ytterbium doped fibres and associated laser development, hollow core fibre studies.
Collaborator Contribution Fabrication of various bespoke fibres including thulium doped fibres of varying designs and compositions, large mode area high concentration ytterbium doped fibres and various hollow core fibres. Provision of two visiting PhD students ( two x 2 years stay at Southampton).
Impact Various high profile papers as listed in the individual supporting grants
Start Year 2014
 
Description Collaboration with National Physical Laboratory 
Organisation National Physical Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have provided expertise knowledge on properties of coatings of optical fibres, relevant to both, standard and hollow core optical fibres to be used for interferometric metrology
Collaborator Contribution Provided expertise as how to stabilize interferometers at uK temperature level to stabilize lasers.
Impact No outputs yet
Start Year 2013
 
Description Collaboration with Shanghai University (visiting PhD student) 
Organisation Shanghai University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Research on components for space division multiplexing - access to novel fibres and fibre characterisation laboratories
Collaborator Contribution 1 year visit of CSC funded PhD student (Yaping Liu)
Impact Several high profile technical papers anticipated.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with Tianjin University (visiting PhD student) 
Organisation Tianjin University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Support of research on spatial mode shaped fibre lasers..
Collaborator Contribution CSC funded visiting studentship for 1 year (Teng Wang)
Impact Technical papers anticipated.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with UCL 
Organisation University College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Providing state-of-the-art hollow core fibre samples, visiting the partner for joint experiments.
Collaborator Contribution Implementing hollow core fibres in their test-bed to demonstrate synchronous packet-switched optical networks, relevant for data centre traffic.
Impact We have published several conference papers, including top-scored presentation at ECOC2019. We are in process of publihing journal paper (Journal of Lightwave Technology), currently under revision following first round of reviews. We have submitted a jount, follow-up EPSRC grant proposal.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with University of Bath on tapered fibres 
Organisation University of Bath
Department Department of Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The development of tapered few mode fibre devices based on logarithmic fibres
Collaborator Contribution Supply of a sample of fibre with a logarithmic refractive index profile.
Impact Two high profile publications.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with University of Enschede 
Organisation University of Twente
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We analysed impact of thermal sensitivity of optical fibres to RF photonics and demonstrated it on an RF photonics filter made of hollow core fibre
Collaborator Contribution Provided expertise in RF photonics, being the world-recognized leader in this field.
Impact We are in preparation of a journal publication (to be submitted to Journal of Lightwave Technology).
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration with the Department of Chemistry (University of Southampton - Dr Russell Minns) in the area of Frequency Upconversion using Hollow Core Fibre Sources for Ultrafast Chemistry and Microscopy (Airguide Collaboration Fund Project) 
Organisation University of Southampton
Department Chemistry
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Design and supply of bespoke hollow core fibres for ultrafast frequency up-conversion of light
Collaborator Contribution Nonlinear light generation experiments using ultrafast lasers + proof of principle application experiments.
Impact Multidisciplinary research (photonics + chemistry) Ongoing work with technical publications anticipated.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with the Institute for Life Sciences (University of Southampton - Prof. Sumeet Mahajan)) in the area of endoscopy using hollow core fibres (Airguide Collaboration Fund Project) 
Organisation University of Southampton
Department Institute for Life Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Design and supply of bespoke hollow core fibres for endoscopic applications
Collaborator Contribution Requirement specification, fibre test and imaging trials using the novel fibres developed.
Impact Collaboration is multidisciplinary (photonics + medicine/biology) Technical publications anticipated.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Component development with Phoenix Photonics 
Organisation Phoenix Photonics Ltd.
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The development of various components for commercialisation by Phoenix Photonics Ltd
Collaborator Contribution Assistance with packaging and device design. Consultancy arrangement with key team team member.
Impact Various joint papers between research team and company. Various new products developed for Phoenix Photonics.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Airguide phd event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Airguide PhD event in November 2018. Promoted to specific third and final year undergraduate students studying physics, maths, engineering and computer science at the University of Southampton. 11 of our target audience attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Airguide website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact airguide website news pages
1,789 unique visits, 28% bounce rate
Most popular pages /news /research /phd
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.airguide.soton.ac.uk/
 
Description Edinburgh Fringe appearance 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact - Edinburgh Fringe - Airguide sponsored Dr Matthew Partridge's two stand-up performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in August 2018, titled 'Fibre optics can save the World!'. 250 Airguide-branded fliers were distributed and 50-60 people attended the two shows. Matthew was also interviewed twice by BBC Radio Solent Breakfast Show. Around 10,000+ social media impressions were created.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Festival of Doctoral Research Showcase, Sugar Fibre Drawing Tower 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Sugar Fibre Drawing Tower
During the Doctoral Research Showcase, a live demonstration was given of how optical fibre is made and works but using sugar!
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Industrial Demonstration of HCF at BT Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited to demonstrate hollow core fibre to a conference organised by BT for both staff and industry on the future of telecommunications
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description International Day of light event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact - International Day of Light event 'Fibre optics can save the World!'. This event was promoted across the whole University, particularly to undergraduate students. Over 40 of our target audience attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Involvement in a BBC 4 Documentary 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact - Hollow core fibres and an interview with Professor Francesco Poletti, featured on BBC4 documentary 'The Secret Story of Stuff', aired on 31st October 2018, with estimated viewing figures of up to 3M (part of a 12minute ORC focus)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bqjrpt
 
Description Outreach - An audience with Professor Sir David Payne at Harrow 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Delivered an inspirational talk to 300 year 10 pupils at Harrow school which sparked fascinating ideas and discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Outreach - Christmas Lecture, How Fibres can save the world 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Christmas lecture, How fibres can save the world, University of Portsmouth,
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Outreach - IoP Light and Optical Fibres 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Speaker: Prof. David Richardson (U. Southampton)
The use of light to transmit data worldwide along optical fibres has revolutionised communications and made the world-wide-web truly worldwide. In the first part of the talk Professor Richardson FRS will survey the underlying physics and the earlier developments in the technology. He will then discuss recent developments, including those involving Southampton, and likely future developments in both transmission range and bandwidth.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://events.iop.org/light-and-optical-fibres
 
Description PhD Student Recruitment Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Airguide Student Recruitment Event, Highfield Campus, Dec 18
23 registered, 11 attended (48%)
Aero & Astro Engineering 3rd year UG
Mech Engineering 3rd year UG/Masters
Electronic Engineering 3rd year
MSc Photonics x 2
Physics x 3
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description PhD Student Recruitment Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact University Student Recruitment Event, May 19
34 registrations - 19 attendees (56%)
38% 2nd year UG students
Matthew Partridge opened with a relaxed and light-hearted presentation
Students asked relevant questions and there was a nice buzzy atmosphere
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Pint of Science, UNESCO International Day of Light 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Pint of Science, UNESCO International day of light,
Light in shining armour: moulding the flow of light inside hollow optical fibres
Francesco Poletti (Professor)
When we stream data from Alexa, or ask Google a question, data from our phone travels wirelessly through the air, and is transformed to an optical signal. It then flies through a hidden web of tiny glass pipes (optical fibres) to a remote datacentre hundreds of kilometres away and returns with the information... in the blink of an eye! Streams of invisible photons carry billions of thoughts, secrets and photos every day through a hyperhighway of optical fibres criss-crossing the Earth.
Here we will review this amazing light-guiding technology and the way researchers are trying to improve it
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://pintofscience.co.uk/event/day-of-light
 
Description Press - Southampton's finest invention and it's pioneer tech start-ups 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact National press coverage in The Telegraph
Southampton's finest invention and it's pioneer tech start-ups
The Daily Telegraph, feature in print and online, Mon 19th Aug '19

310,586 circulation (average per issue 2019)
460,000K visitors (average daily site visitors of telegraph.co.uk)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Social Media activity 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact @ORC Tweets (1,668 followers, 548 following)
51.7K impressions
Top 2 tweets airguide
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://twitter.com/orctweets
 
Description Social media campaign 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact - Social media campaign using #AirguidePhotonics generated some 25,000+ impressions and 500+ engagements
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Spotlight student photography competition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Spotlight: Optics and Photonics Research Showcase
A showcase of images generated during the PhDs of Zepler Institute students for an image competition. Winning images can be found at the link supplied below
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mUgNW9AziKv6DjXqdxmq7juDkyqCi7v7/view?fbclid=IwAR25nOL_nSwMxEULMG0V...
 
Description The Future Looks Bright for HCF Technology press article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The Future Looks Bright for HCF Technology,
Widespread industry coverage and social sharing of ECOC2019
Press release to announce ECOC post deadline, Sept '19
Optics.org news feature, 30,000 UVs per month
Photonics.com news feature, 250,000 UVs per month (cross-site)
Fibre Optics Online, media pack n/a
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019