Queen knights fiber laser pioneer
SOUTHAMPTON, England – Professor David N. Payne, the man behind the technology we use every day when we surf the Internet, make mobile phone calls or draw money from an ATM, now has another feather in his cap: He has been knighted in the Queen’s New Year Honours List for services to photonics.
Payne, director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton, was recognized for his extensive contributions to harnessing light in telecommunications, sensing and lasers for manufacturing. His research includes the development of the erbium-doped fiber amplifier, the world’s first practical optical fiber amplifier and a crucial component in the Internet’s ability to transmit huge amounts of data. Its development is regarded as one of the most significant in modern telecommunications.
David Payne. Courtesy of University of Southampton.
“I was recently described by my peers as the man who made phone calls free,” Payne said. “While this is an exaggeration, it conveys the profound impact of the optical Internet on our daily lives. Thousands of engineers and scientists worked away in the background and changed our world for the better. When some of us are recognized publicly for what we have achieved, it is a wonderful accolade for us all.”
Payne’s pioneering work in fiber fabrication in the 1970s resulted in most of the special fibers used today. He also led the team that developed the single-mode silica fiber laser and broke the kilowatt barrier for the output power. His many other inventions navigate airliners, cut steel, mark smartphones, manufacture lifesaving medical devices, help defend the country and power the Internet.
His activities also have led to a photonics cluster of nine companies surrounding ORC, creating jobs and wealth in the Southampton region. With colleagues, he founded SPI Lasers plc, a high-power fiber laser supplier.
“The erbium-doped fiber amplifier is a crucial invention that has made possible the global information superhighway and high-speed telecommunication networks, which are so important to us all in the 21st century,” said University of Southampton Vice Chancellor professor Don Nutbeam. “I am delighted that the unique contribution David has made through his research is being recognized with this prestigious honor.”
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