The University of Southampton

A New Open Facility for the Optoelectronics Research Centre

Published: 23 January 2023

A new grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will facilitate the building of a new open experimental facility at the University of Southampton. This is an exciting opportunity for researchers across the UK to gain access to state-of-the-art equipment that will enable them to demonstrate the potential of new technologies that are being developed. There will be opportunities to test a range of technologies, from new fibres and optical amplifiers to silicon photonics technologies.

Periklis Petropoulos, Principal Investigator of the project, said: “The next few months are going to be very exciting as we will be setting up our labs as an open experimental facility, housing state-of-the-art testing and measurement equipment. The new capability will enable photonics researchers, both at Southampton and across collaborating institutions, to carry out cutting-edge research in communications and beyond.”

Users will be able to experiment over a wide range of wavelengths, and generate, detect and analyse signals at unprecedented speeds. The new facility will enable the characterisation of signals in time and will offer a detailed analysis of their frequency components. Coherent detection will be possible, thereby offering information on both the amplitude and phase characteristics of the signals. This unique facility will enable its users to devise and execute a range of novel experiments. The creation of this facility is also an exciting opportunity for those interested in theoretical research as there will be opportunities to test and apply use cases, such as new machine learning methodologies for communication systems.

This new facility will be attached to EPSRC’S National Dark Fibre Facility (NDFF). This is the UK National Research Facility for fibre network research, offering access and control over the optical layer of a dedicated communications network for research-only purposes. The two together will create an experimental environment for communications research that is unique internationally, making it an important development for both academic and industrial partners. The UK currently has a strong manufacturing capability, but the creation of this facility will enable the characterisation of these components, as well as well as the demonstration of their potential in a state-of-the-art experimental testbed.

The facility will benefit from being situated at the University of Southampton, which has established strong experimental capabilities in areas, such as photonics, communications and the life sciences. Research at the extended cleanroom complex of the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), a unique facility in UK academia, will benefit from a more intimate connection between fabrication and advanced applications research.

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