ICAN - University of Southampton
The Optoelectronic Research Centre (ORC), one of the world’s largest photonics research institutes, is a centre of excellence for Photonics with more than 120 research staff; it is based at the University of Southampton. It hosts the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Photonics, and has recently benefitted from a new £106M clean room facility, with advanced facilities for photonics manufacturing. This includes four fibre drawing systems and two modified chemical vapour deposition (MCVD) fibre preform manufacturing lathes. There are also a range of tools for cleaning, polishing, machining, and shaping fibre preforms, including an advanced HF acid based glass etching station, ultrasonic glass processing machine, coupler rigs, hand torches, a vertical lathe and an Optek laser cleaver system. Crucially these facilities are fully matched by experienced research staff with a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and practices of fabrication of photonics components. The fabrication is further supported by bespoke software.
The ORC’s track record in the development and fabrication of new optical fibres is unparalleled – many of the innovations in fibre technology have originated at the ORC during its 40 year history. These include the erbium-doped as well as ytterbium-doped fibre amplifier, the photonic crystal fibre, the large mode area fibre, and the GTWaveTM fibre. ORC has been active in the field of high-power and ultrashort fibre sources for two decades. This has led to a large number of power records and world-firsts, cw as well as in the ultrashort pulse regime, including the first kW single-mode fibre laser (Yb-doped), the first ultrashort Yb-doped fibre laser and other ultrashort fibre lasers and amplifiers in different configurations such as a 2 kW fibre amplifier designed for beam combination. Many of these results build on the development of new components. In addition to the fibre itself, ORC has invented and developed pump coupling schemes, chirped fibre Bragg gratings in standard and large mode area fibres, fibre couplers, polarisers, and many other components.
ORC’s fabrication capabilities are well matched by around 20 high-power and short-pulse fibre laboratories and a full suite of characterisation equipment and software, from the fibre and component level to the system level.
ORC’s strength in fabrication and application-oriented research is reflected in its close ties with industry. Such research often concerns the transition of research results into manufacturable products, with cost being an important parameter. Thus, the ORC is very successful in research commercialisation, with over 10 spin–out companies in the local photonics cluster. Most of these are fabrication-related and they generate annual revenues of over £100M and provide over 500 jobs locally.
The ORC and thus the University of Southampton has a large number of current programs relevant for ICAN, e.g., on power-scaling of fibres, ultrashort fibre systems, phase control, and coherent combination. Of particular relevance is the recent establishment of an EPSRC Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre in Photonics, focusing on the fabrication of photonic components and materials.
Key persons involved in ICAN: David PAYNE, Johan NILSSON, Bill BROCKLESBY