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The Ultrafast Photonics Collaboration

W. Sibbett, C.T.A. Brown, A. Miller, I.D.W. Samuel, T.F. Krauss

UPC aims to break through the limits set by current datacomms technologies.

The Ultrafast Photonics Collaboration (UPC) is a 12.5 Million Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration (IRC) recently funded by the EPSRC and industry to enhance the technologies necessary to enhance future developments in data communications (datacomms).

The UPC is a collaboration between five British Universities (St Andrews, Heriot-Watt, Bristol, Glasgow and Imperial College) and seven companies (Nortel Networks, Marconi Caswell, Agilent Technologies, Kymata, JDS Uniphase, Sharp and Vitesse) led by St Andrews University. We are working together to produce the ‘quantum leaps’ required to ensure the continued success of the Internet and other distributed communications systems.

At St Andrews, the work carried out can be divided into four main areas:

  1. The development of novel ultrashort pulse laser sources suitable for datacomms (W. Sibbett, C.T.A. Brown). Investigating a range of materials and laser cavity designs to produce laser sources that give very short pulses (10’s fs) delivered at high repetition rates (10’s GHz) in ultra-compact geometries with low input power requirements.
  2. All-optical switching, semiconductor optical amplifiers and spintronics (A. Miller). Semiconductors are currently used in many optoelectronics systems. By manipulating some of the structural and electronic the properties of these materials, it is possible to obtain devices with uses as diverse as broad bandwidth amplifiers and very high speed all optical switches. We are investigating the role that new semiconductor structures could play in ultrafast datacomms.
  3. Novel semiconducting organic materials for datacomms. (I.D.W. Samuel). Organic materials may offer a route to cheap, broad bandwidth gain materials suitable for datacomms. Investigations being undertaken include pulse propagation studies and the creation of photonic microstructures in these materials.
  4. Photonic band gap structures. (T.F. Krauss). The role of photonic crystals within UPC is to provide spatial and spectral dispersion control, e.g. to separate different wavelength channels and thereby act as "prisms" in multi-wavelength systems, or to compress or dilate pulses via group velocity engineering.

Quantum dots, optical, polymers, photonic band gap structures and integrated optical devices – the enabling technologies for high-speed datacomms.

We are also working closely with Professor Neville Richardson (School of Chemistry) in the investigation of the opportunities that may be available from the interactions between the surfaces of different materials for the development of ultrafast-optical components.

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