The University of Southampton

International recognition for Airguide Photonics researchers

Published: 9 May 2022
Dr Di Lin working in the laboratory

Two Airguide Photonics academics have been globally recognised by an international laser conference for their achievements in fibre laser research in the past year.

Professor Radan Slavik and Dr Di Lin were both recipients of the Fiber Laser in 2021 Award at the Advanced Fiber Laser Conference 2021, in China - one of the largest conferences in the field.

Radan was awarded for his research in Distributed characterization of low-loss hollow core fibres while Di was awarded for the demonstration of a High-power, electronically controlled source of user-defined vortex and vector light beams based on a few-mode fibre amplifier.

The conference brings together professionals from around the world who are engaged in advanced fibre laser work and the Fiber Laser in 2021 Awards recognise important breakthroughs and achievements in the field in 2021.

Radan said: "This award was judged by top-level academics and industrialists and is recognition that the fibre laser research community appreciates the importance of hollow-core fibres and our work to translate this research into practical applications. This award also advocates for the Airguide Photonics programme, as well as the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) who have supported our work.

"Our research enables detailed characterisation of hollow-core fibres that are seen as an emerging technology in optical communications and fibre lasers. Although the capabilities of today's optical fibres are enormous, we are reaching their limits, for example the amount of power that can be transmitted through such fibre is limited by damage to the glass or nonlinear effects that degrade the beam properties. Hollow-core fibres are surpassing properties of current optical fibres in virtually every aspect and can revolutionise all fields of fibre optics. A key next step is to refine the manufacturing process to improve yield and reduce cost. Our work is instrumental in addressing this challenge by enabling characterisation of hollow-core fibres along their length.

"We demonstrated for the first time that the back-scattering in these hollow-core fibres, which is more than 10,000 times weaker than in today's fibres, can be detected. We first analysed it via simulations through the work of my ORC colleague Dr Eric Numkam Fokoua that predicted extremely low but measurable back-scattering levels.

"In collaboration with Laval University, in Canada, we developed an instrument capable of measuring the predicted level of back-scattering. Back-scattering enables detailed measurements of properties along the fibre length including fibre core diameter variations, fabrication flaws and loss changes. As well as being used in the characterisation of optical fibres, it is also used in fibre sensors to monitor structures such as bridges, towers and plane wings."

Di said: "The award is recognition that our research work is at the forefront of fibre laser technology. We have developed a novel digital fibre amplifier offering unprecedented levels of simultaneous control of amplitude, phase and polarisation of output beams at high power levels - all under electronic control. These lasers have the potential to be disruptive in a range of application areas including sensing, imaging, medicine, materials processing and high energy physics, amongst others. We will be looking to investigate opportunities to exploit our technology in these areas in the future.

"The work was originally funded by the EPSRC project Energy resilient manufacturing: spatio-temporal beam tailored fibre lasers for energy resilient manufacturing and looks to demonstrate the feasibility of using spatio-temporally shaped laser technology to enable significant energy savings in laser-based manufacturing and to open up new laser processing functionalities."

Radan and Di are both members of the Airguide Photonics programme, hosted at Southampton's Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC). It is a £6m EPSRC-funded research project that aims to revolutionise fibre optics by translating hollow-core fibre technology from the research lab to a deployable fibre technology.

Professor David Richardson, Principal Investigator on the Airguide Photonics programme, said: "I am delighted at Radan's and Di's awards that recognise their great personal contributions to their respective research fields, as well as the continued leadership role that the ORC plays in developing significant and important new fibre technologies.

"Both hollow-core fibres and digital fibre lasers, capable of unprecedented control of laser beam properties at high power, have the potential to prove disruptive across many application areas including telecommunications and industrial laser-based manufacturing. I am extremely proud of my colleagues' achievements."

These latest awards further strengthen the ORC's position as a world leader in fibre optics. The ORC has contributed to many landmark results and established many records for fibre laser performance over the years.

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