Photonics

Based on laser diode, fiber-optic and photonic integrated circuit core technologies, we explore applications in high-bandwidth telecommunication and datacom networks, ubiquitous sensor networks, high-performance microwave photonics and low-cost and turn-key bio-photonics.

APPLICATION FIELDS OF PHOTONICS AT ENGINEERING 

Photonics has been identified as a Key Enabling Technology by the European Commission. It is considered to be one of the main driving forces for innovation, development and growth of a plethora of goods and services in the 21st century. The research at our department is centred around the core technologies of laser diodes, optical fibers and photonic integrated circuits. From an engineering perspective and with a scientific approach we study the application of these technologies to real-world problems and challenges in a large variety of fields.

Exascale datacenters are at the heart of the internet. Image courtesy of tigger11th / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Optical links have all but replaced copper links for telecommunications, from long-haul transatlantic cables to fiber-to-the-home. Such optical networks support the huge bandwidth that is required for the internet, and need to continue to do so in the next decades. But also at the heart of the internet, in the datacenters and supercomputers, the role of photonics is rising. From rack to rack, board to board, on-board chip to chip, and even on-chip optical interconnects are increasingly required to limit the carbon footprint of these datacenters and enable exascale connectivity.

Fiber-based sensors measure the bending of the blades of wind turbines. Image courtesy of Vestas Wind Systems A/S.

The unique combination of low-loss fibers and waveguides, and compact, low power-consuming integrated photonics makes photonics, in principle, a promising technology for a lot of other fields traditionally dominated by electronics. A striking example is microwave photonics, where we investigate applications for high-capacity wireless links for future 4G/5G networks, low-noise oscillators for novel radar systems, and high-speed signal processing for 400 Gbps and even 1 Tbps telecommunications.

But also in the traditional fields of optics, we try to push the limits ever further. Optical fibers enable ubiquitous sensor networks due to the low cost and high performance. For example, fiber-based bend sensors are used in wind turbines in a collaborative effort with Vestas A/S.

Optical chip for ultrafast pulse shaping and waveform generation for biomedical imaging. Heck et al., IEEE JQE 44, 4, 370 (2008).

We will further explore applications of optical chips in spectroscopy, metrology, biophotonics and quantum optics. All these fields have led to exciting fundamental research in the past, but, unfortunately, quite often this research does not come out of the laboratory. It is our vision that by making use of low-cost and compact optical chip technology, we can bring these applications to the real world.


Science and engineering to make a real impact on society: at the AU Department of Engineering we “invent to innovate”.