The University of Southampton

Nature Communications paper reveals breakthrough in optical fibre communications

Published: 17 December 2014

Researchers from the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton working with Eblana Photonics Inc, in Ireland, have revealed a breakthrough in optical fibre communications in a paper published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.

Academics from the ORC have collaborated with colleagues at Eblana Photonics Inc to develop an approach that enables direct modulation of laser currents to be used to generate highly advanced modulation format signals.

The paper, entitled Modulator-free Optical QAM Signal Synthesis, explores a radically new approach to the generation of spectrally-efficient advanced modulation format signals as required in modern optical communication systems.

This new technology, patented by the University of Southampton and licensed to Eblana Photonics, avoids the need for costly and power-inefficient external modulator schemes that are currently used to generate such signals.

Dr Radan Slavik, Principal Research Fellow at the ORC said: “Our paper highlights the exquisite control that we have achieved over the optical field generated directly from a current-modulated semiconductor laser.”

Direct current modulated lasers are of huge commercial relevance and are already widely used in optical communications, telecommunications and sensor and high power fibre laser systems. However, the inability to accurately control the full optical field emitted directly from such lasers has been a fundamental problem limiting applications.

Radan explains: “The new capability we have demonstrated will be of relevance and could be of significant impact within many scientific and engineering communities that are directly concerned with or exploit laser radiation.

“We have previously presented some of the results included in this paper at conferences, including a post-deadline presentation at Optical Fibre Communications (OFC), and at an international symposium and this has already generated a lot of interest from senior academics in our community, as well as from leading industrial players.

“Having our results published in Nature Communications, a prestigious scientific journal, represents great recognition for the work we are doing and the advances that we have made”, he concluded.

Dr. Rob Lennox, Director of Sales at Eblana Photonics Ltd., Dublin, said: “We are very pleased to have collaborated on this innovative development work performed by the ORC team and are looking towards making this new approach a commercial reality.”

The paper was co-authored by Zhixin Liu, Radan Slavík, and David J. Richardson from the ORC, Brian Kelly, John O’Carroll, and Richard Phelan from Eblana Photonics Inc, and former Southampton PhD student Joseph Kakande, now at Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs in the USA.

Nature Communications is a multidisciplinary journal that publishes high-quality research from all areas of natural sciences.

Papers published represent important advances of significance to specialists in each field.

Read the full paper published in Nature Communications

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