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Southampton academic receives 'Future Prize' for pioneering research in optical fibre technology.

Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis winner Professor Sir David Payne
Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis winner Professor Sir David Payne

One of the world's leading experts in optical fibre technology from the University of Southampton is the eighth recipient of the Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis awarded by the German foundation Berthold Leibinger Stiftung.

A jury of renowned international experts and industry leaders has recognised Professor Sir David Payne's work on the erbium-doped fibre amplifier (EDFA), high power fibre lasers, and his pioneering research in fibre optics technology. Originally due in 2020, the award ceremony has been rescheduled to take place on September 24, 2021.

Since the 1970s Sir David's work spans many diverse areas of photonics, from telecommunications and optical sensors to nano-photonics and optical materials. With his colleagues at the University of Southampton's world renowned Optoelectronics Research Centre he has made many of the key technical achievements in almost every area of optical fibre technologies and his work has had a direct impact on worldwide telecommunications, as well as nearly all fields of optical R&D - most notably, the erbium-doped fibre amplifier in telecommunications and high-power fibre lasers in material processing and manufacturing.

The common component of these two tremendously important and successful industrial devices is the low-density rare-earth doping of silica fibres allowing for the efficient generation and amplification of light inside a fibre. The publication of Sir David's Southampton group on low-loss erbium-doped optical fibres in 1985 sparked a development that led to the first employment of EDFA devices in an undersea trans-pacific cable within less than ten years and the advent of kilowatt fibre lasers in the 2004.

No Global Internet Without EDFA

In the early days of fibre-optic network deployment, the common measure of capacity was the number of phone calls carried on a single fibre, with impressive numbers ranging high in the hundreds of thousands. The internet and digitisation of communication changed the notation to gigabits per second ranging from single digit numbers in the 1990s to six-digit numbers today (>100 Terabit/s). The transmission capacity of optical cables is not only far greater than that of copper, but it can also be readily multiplied by using multiple wavelengths - each being a separate channel - in the same fibre, called wavelength multiplexing. These channels can again be multiplied using coherent transmission technology. All these techniques rely on EDFA signal amplification in network connections greater than 100 kilometers. In simple terms, EDFAs drastically reduce the cost of bandwidth as they eliminate the need to deploy additional cables, making data connections affordable for today's data driven world.

The Berthold Leibinger Stiftung is proud to present Professor Sir David Payne with the Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis adding an esteemed prize to a highly decorated researcher who has also initiated and sparked commercialisation by founding a number of start-ups. He is also well known for collaborations with well-established tech-companies.

Professor Sir David Payne said, "I note that the Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis is an international award for excellent research on the application or generation of laser light. The Optoelectronics Research Centre that I have the honour to lead shares that exciting mission.

"I am therefore greatly honoured to receive this highly prestigious recognition of my research work and that of the extraordinary colleagues with whom I have had the pleasure of working over the years. This prize is for them too. I will be joining an August cohort of previous Leibinger prize winners that reads like a who's who of laser pioneers and that makes me very proud."

Posted by on 09 Jun 2021.