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  • Ireland: Getting a Boost from Academe

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2009
Kimberley Clark, Ireland Correspondent,

iStock_000001823296Medium.jpgA close working relationship between industry and academe characterizes photonics in the Emerald Isle. An example: Several photonics start-up companies have been spun off from research centers throughout the Republic of Ireland but mainly concentrated around Dublin and Cork.

Tyndall’s Photonics Centre at University College Cork is considered a leading photonics research center in the country. Professor Paul Townsend, head of photonics at the center, provided highlights of some of the research and industrial projects under way in Ireland.

From Atoms to Systems

Science Foundation Ireland recently established a research program called PiFAS (Photonic Integration: From Atoms to Systems), a collaboration of Tyndall, University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin, Cork Institute of Technology, and Dublin City University and of industry partners Alcatel-Lucent, Eblana Photonics, Firecomms, Intune Networks and SensL.

The group has developed fiber-pigtailed, butterfly-style tunable laser modules based on a novel, slotted laser design. This potentially low-cost approach requires only a simple processing step to define slots in the active regions of the laser, which generate the resonant cavities that control emission wavelength. A similar approach has been used to generate single-wavelength emission from multimode lasers – a technology being commercialized by Dublin-based Eblana Photonics.

Optical communications systems

Consumers continue to expect greater bandwidth, high reliability and low cost. To meet this growing demand for capacity, Tyndall is developing a technique called coherent wavelength division multiplexing transmission that aggregates traffic into ultrahigh-capacity signals and occupies only a small proportion of the available spectrum. The technique is believed to be the world’s first multiplexing scheme to directly exploit the coherent properties of light.

Scalable optical interconnection

Supercomputers of increasing power are needed for work on some of the most critical problems in science, including atmospheric and ocean models to predict the effects of global climate change.

Although the power of individual processors continues to increase rapidly in accordance with Moore’s law, the performance of the networks that interconnect the processors has improved more slowly, widely regarded as one of the most critical challenges in supercomputer design.

Previous optical network solutions proposed for this application have poor scalability because of superlinear scaling of the component count, or problems of intractable control and high complexity. In this project, new optical interconnection network architectures have been developed and analyzed that provide low latency and high bandwidth with large scalability. The practical feasibility has been demonstrated by laboratory experiments.

This work recently led to an invitation from IBM to participate in a major research collaboration on exascale stream computing.

The agreement will see IBM supercomputing and multidisciplinary experts working directly with researchers from Tyndall, Trinity College Dublin, National University of Ireland in Galway, University College Cork, and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology to develop computing architectures and technologies that overcome current limitations of dealing with the massive volumes of real-time data and analysis.

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