The University of Southampton

ORC Director awarded for contributions to Industry

Published: 8 June 2010

Fibre laser pioneer Professor David Payne has been announced as the 2010 winner of the AILU (Association of Laser Users) Award.

The accolade, given annually, recognises his important contributions in the development of industrial laser materials processing in the UK through his innovative work in fibre lasers.

The fibre laser has its origins in the silica fibre that powers the internet and for which this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Charles Kao, add the revolutionary optical telecoms fibre amplifier developed by Professor Payne and his team at the University of Southampton in 1985 and you have an invention regarded as being 15 years ahead of its time. Today the technology is widely used across manufacturing sectors worldwide, thanks to its ability to weld, cut and mark materials including inch-thick steel.

Professor Payne, now Director of the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre, went on to commercialise his research in fibre lasers through the formation of spin-out company SPI Lasers, which was sold to Trumpf for $40m in 2008.

Professor Payne comments: “The ultimate test of research quality is in the market place – has your work made a difference?

“The AILU award for an outstanding contribution to the industrial use of lasers confirms the real-world importance of our work and makes me very proud. The award endorses our support of industry and our focus on manufacturing as a key area for photonics.”

Fibre lasers are highly efficient, have very high beam stability, and maintenance is minimal since no realignment or cleaning of components is necessary, making them ideal for use in manufacturing.

The combination of small-size, maintenance-free operation, thermal and electrical efficiency combined with outstanding beam quality has made the fibre laser a huge success and an attractive alternative to traditional lasers.

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