The University of Southampton

Call for proposals: Airguide Photonics collaboration fund

Published: 5 December 2019

The EPSRC-funded Programme Grant “Airguide Photonics” includes a “Collaboration Fund” to enable the inclusion of new partners to bring additional value to the programme.

Initial engagement will be via short research projects that support the objectives of the programme. Therefore, we are inviting proposals from UK-based academic researchers for projects valued ordinarily up to £50,000, (exceptionally up to £100,000), which directly or indirectly contribute to the areas outlined below and which add benefit to the overall aims of the project. We are particularly interested to receive proposals on the underlined topics.

1. Hollow Core Fibre development (Contact: Prof. Francesco Poletti)

Hollow Core Fibre (HCF) development is Airguide Photonics'; core activity which aims to design, develop, fabricate (and supply) the next generation of ultrahigh performance HCFs. Within this core activity we address key manufacturing aspects, including: a) the development of ultralow-loss HCFs operating at various key telecommunications wavebands appropriate to telecoms, datacoms and 5G front/back haul, b) new routes to manufacture HCF preforms in various materials, including silica, soft glasses and polymers via e.g. extrusion, 3D printing, sol-gel, etc..., c) non-destructive structural analysis of HCF preforms (20-30mm), canes (3-8mm) and fibres (0.2-0.3mm) from side interrogation and/or identification of defects therein, e.g. using X-ray or acoustic tomography, scattering, reflectometry, etc..., d) advanced fluid dynamics modelling of the rheology of the HCF drawing process.

2. Hollow Core Fibre reliability and interconnection (Contact: Prof. David Richardson)

We address the key practical and reliability aspects associated with the deployment of HCFs in the real-world applications. Within this activity, we study: a) Fibre ageing, stress corrosion, water/H2 ingression, outgassing for different glass grades and types, b) Cleaving and splicing polymer and soft glass HCFs, c) Special coatings and cabling for radiation-hard and environmentally-sensitive applications, d) Direct coupling to lasers, VCSELS, photonic integrated circuits and metamaterials.

3. Amplifiers, lasers and components for Hollow Core Fibres (Contact: Prof Jayanta Sahu)

This theme will develop a suite of amplifiers compatible with the enormous operating bandwidth offered by HCFs. This is key to unlocking long distance HCF transmission and many of the laser, sensor, quantum and metrology applications of HCFs in our other work packages. We work in particular on: a) Bismuth doped fibre amplifiers and the spectroscopy of Bismuth ions in a glass host, b) Thulium/holmium doped fibre amplifiers for wavelengths beyond the L-band, c) Raman amplifier for wideband operation, d) Multicore fibre amplifiers and their applications.

4. Data transmission in Hollow Core Fibres (Contact: Prof Periklis Petropoulos)

We are studying the transformative applications enabled by adoption of hollow-core fibre technology in: a) Data centres, b) 5G front-haul and microwave photonics, c) Internet of things/tactile networks (for real-time applications), d) Studio distribution of ultra-high definition video signals, e) Fundamentally-secure quantum communication networks, f) Ultra-high capacity transmission systems.

We are also exploring the communications applications of the novel fibre amplifiers developed in the Programme.

5. Laser delivery applications of Hollow Core Fibres (Contact: Dr Hans Christian Mulvads,Prof David Richardson)

The exponential increase in available laser power creates new opportunities to exploit the advantages of coherent light to ablate, weld, mark, vaporize and sense. In numerous application areas however, all-glass fibre-based laser delivery has now reached the fundamental limits of optical fibres, dictated by nonlinear effects, transparency range and/or damage mechanisms to the glass. Hollow Core Fibres (HCFs) with several orders of magnitude lower nonlinearity, higher damage threshold and smaller overlap between the transmitted beam and the surrounding glass, offer a unique possible solution to fibre-based laser delivery of unprecedented power. We are keen to pursue breakthrough applications in the areas of: (a) Laser manufacturing, (b) Laser based ignition, (c) Defence, (d) Attosecond science, (e) Nonlinear endoscopy/microscopy, (f) Gas based mid-IR lasers.

6. Hollow Core Fibre for sensing and metrology (Contact: Dr Radan Slavik)

We are interested in exploiting the long gas/light interactions possible in Hollow Core Fibres (HCFs) as well as their stability with respect to environmental conditions, developing a range of new devices including: a) More environmentally resilient/high-performance gyroscopes, b) Sensitive in-line gas reference cells for breath analysis and hydrocarbon sensing, c) Environmentally-stable interferometers (for optical and Radio-over-Fibre applications), d) Fibres and components for time/frequency dissemination.


The Call for Proposals is open to any interested UK-based academic research group or individual.

Funding levels available

Up to £150,000 is available in this Call. We expect to fund a number of projects and we anticipate individual projects requesting funding up to £50,000 (although for a truly exceptional proposal we will consider funding up to £100,000). It is planned that additional annual calls will be announced in later years, including in 2020 and 2021.

Application process and requirements

One page-long proposals should be prepared in a pdf format and e-mailed to Prof David Richardson and cc Prof Periklis Petropoulos

Interested parties are strongly encouraged to make initial contact with either the PI (Prof. David Richardson) or the relevant project contact (listed by topic above) before submitting a proposal in order to ensure a good fit with the project's overall objectives and current status of technological development. This is particularly important if access to particular fibres is required as part of the project.

The proposals should include:

  • The project title,
  • Names of the investigators,
  • Brief description,
  • Expected duration,
  • Costs at Full Economic Cost (FEC) with manpower requirements and a breakdown of expenditure.

Grants will be funded at 80% of directly incurred (DI) costs. The remaining 20% of DI costs and all directly allocated (DA) costs must be contributed by the academic institute submitting the proposal. To clarify, this grant can only support DI costs, such as research staff time (excluding academic time), consumables and travel to the project partners, but no DA costs, such as investigator time or overheads. Equipment costs over £10,000 are not permitted. If you require any clarification on DI or DA costs please contact us prior to submitting the proposal.

Proposals should also contain an explanation of how the proposed work fits into the frame of Airguide Photonics and what added value it brings to a specific area of the programme. The PI and/or Co-I(s) of all funded projects will be required to engage fully with the programme and to attend partner meetings as required during the lifetime of the project, including; on commencing, mid project, and at the end of the project. In addition, within one month of the end of the project, a final report will be submitted to the Airguide Photonics Management Group highlighting the project outcomes and impact.

The best proposals will be short-listed based on their innovation, compatibility with the Airguide Photonics programme and the added value that they are offering. Authors of the selected proposals will be asked to give a 15-minute presentation to the Airguide Management Group, followed by a 10-minute questioning session. Following this, the final ranking list will be made.

Schedule and deadlines

Deadline for submission of proposals: 12pm on Friday 28th February 2020

Announcement of the short-listed proposals: Friday 27th March 2020

Presentation to Airguide Management Group members: w/c 27th April 2020

Announcement of the winning proposals: w/c 4th May 2020

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