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  • Copernicus Project Developing Photonic Crystal Technology
Oct 2010
NEUILLY-SUR-SEINE, France, Oct. 26, 2010 — European scientists and engineers have joined forces to pursue a visionary concept to employ photonic crystals for ultrafast signal processing with integrated optical circuits.

The Copernicus project, which runs until the end of 2012, has received funding worth nearly Euro 3 million from a part of the European Commission’s Information Society Technologies Program, which is devoted to disruptive photonics technologies. The project has brought together eight European academic and industrial partners with high profiles in photonics, nanotechnology, modeling and developing new technologies for telecommunications and aerospace.

The main aims of the Copernicus project are to develop compact demultiplexing receivers for 100 Gb/s wavelength division multiplexed and optical time division multiplexed signals, based on photonic crystal technology. Photonic crystals are nanostructured materials, which have subwavelength features that enable unprecedented control of the confinement of light and allow the miniaturization of key optical functions, such as filtering and waveguiding. Significant reductions in power consumption can also be achieved.

The skills and expertise of the Consortium are being combined to demonstrate the viability of photonic crystal devices and circuits for applications in communications and optical signal processing. Photonic-crystal-based devices, including all-optical gates, filters, demultiplexers and photodetectors are being developed and new levels of photonic crystal integration will be employed to combine these devices and achieve complex all-optical functions attractive to both medium- and long-term markets.

Initially, these devices will address the pressing need for low-power, ultra-high bandwidth data links in server farms, optical storage networks and on-board internet/entertainment systems, where demand is driving the data bandwidth and technology integration level rapidly upwards.

Next-generation telecom systems also will benefit from these devices. Finally, this technology is expected to play an important role in the convergence of photonics and electronics, where its high-speed, ultra-low power consumption and extreme compactness make it very promising for seamless cross-chip and off-chip data links in CMOS integrated circuits, opening new routes for the development of extremely high data rate optical interconnects.

By pursuing this fresh approach to photonic-electronic convergence, the Consortium honors Nicolaus Copernicus, whose comprehensive heliocentric theory placed the sun at the center of the solar system. At the same time, the Consortium wishes to raise awareness of the central and growing role of photonics in modern information and communication technology systems.

Project coordinator, Alfredo de Rossi of Thales Research and Technology in France, said: “We believe that our approach has all the hallmarks of a highly disruptive technology with the potential to place Europe at the forefront of photonics.”

Indeed, this work comes at an important time for Europe. The photonics industry is growing rapidly and in September 2009 the European Commission designated photonics as one of five key enabling technologies for our future prosperity.

“The world market for photonics products reached Euro 270 billion in 2008, of which Euro 55 billion was produced in Europe – a growth of nearly 30% since 2005,” said the Photonics21 European Technology Platform.

As well as technological developments, the project contributes to the structuring of the European Research Area. Professor Eric Larkins of the University of Nottingham said, “We are actively supporting the transfer of knowledge and technology within the Consortium and ultimately to the wider community. For example, we are producing technical tutorials for training in cutting-edge technologies. As the project progresses, these will be available through the project website to students and researchers outside the Consortium.”

Coordinated by Thales Research and Technology, France, the Consortium also includes the Laboratory for Photonics and Nanostructures (LPN) and Optical Functions for Information and Communication Technologies (FOTON), both research units of the French National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS); university partners from DTU Fotonik at the Technical University of Denmark, the University of Ferrara in Italy and the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom; and industrial partners u2t Photonics, Germany and Thales Systèmes Aéroportés, France.

Interested readers can find more information on the project website where they can also ask to be put on the mailing list to receive the annual e-newsletter and make contact with members of the project team.

For more information, visit: 

That branch of science involved in the study and utilization of the motion, emissions and behaviors of currents of electrical energy flowing through gases, vacuums, semiconductors and conductors, not to be confused with electrics, which deals primarily with the conduction of large currents of electricity through metals.
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