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Pan-European Task Force Drives Photonics Innovation

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BRUSSELS, July 17, 2013 — A collaboration formed under a four-year European Commission-funded project continues to bear fruit for the field of photonics, having yielded more than 400 publications and 11 filed patents, despite the project’s conclusion in April 2012.

The photonics industry has grown over the past 50 years, in large part due to the growing demand for bandwidth and capacity on communication networks. Although research in the field is progressing in the US, Asia and Europe, the sector continues to face several challenges. In Europe, these include the disparate and diverse nature of the research institutes, university departments and companies involved in photonics R&D.

“Photonics is maturing rapidly, but it is still not at the stage where you can go down to your local shop and buy photonic products as you can buy equivalent electronic goods,” said professor Hercules Avramopoulos, head of the Photonics Communications Research Laboratory at the National Technical University of Athens. “Much of the field is still in the phase of researching and experimentation — and doing an experiment in photonics often involves using very expensive equipment and devices that are not broadly available.

“In addition, you need expertise, often multidisciplinary, in order to combine knowledge in the physics of materials with expertise in the field of application,” Avramopoulos said. “In general, you cannot find all these ingredients in individual laboratories.”

A collaboration formed under a four-year European Commission-funded project continues to bear fruit for the field of photonics, having yielded more than 400 publications and 11 filed patents, despite the project’s conclusion in April 2012. Courtesy of ©ShutterStock.

To overcome this hurdle, academic and research institutes from 12 European countries formed the “Pan-European photonics task force: integrating Europe’s expertise on photonic subsystems” (EURO-FOS) project, backed by €4 million (about $5.3 million) from the European Commission (See: European Union Funds Collaborative Research in Photonics). The consortium put in place the networks and tools necessary to pool resources and technology among a variety of organizations working on photonics research across Europe, while also helping photonics researchers to share knowledge and expertise.

Over the course of four years, the consortium carried out nearly 100 joint experiments involving more than 300 doctorate and postdoctorate researchers. The work resulted in more than 400 publications and 11 filed patents. Although the project’s contract ended in April 2012, the collaborations have continued.

“The EURO-FOS Network of Excellence (NoE) was driven by the need to enhance and assist collaboration between organizations and researchers across Europe,” he said. “The project achieved that with great success.”

The EURO-FOS NoE, comprising 17 organizations, has extensive expertise in the design, development and testing of photonic components and subsystems that are applicable to high-capacity lightwave communications networks. Called “Eurofoslab,” the laboratory pools state-of-the-art components, devices, subsystems, test beds and access to deployed optical fiber links. Its resources are located at the 17 laboratories of the network, but are centrally administered by web tools developed at the University of Essex that reserve shared resources and schedule joint experiments.

“The sorts of experiments that Eurofoslab has enabled would not be possible for individual laboratories. Working together with more resources at hand, researchers have been able to embark on more ambitious, large-scale experimental endeavors,'” the EURO-FOS coordinator said. “In addition, it has helped create economies of scale in the development, testing and validation of photonic subsystems and systems.”

Work conducted via Eurofoslab within the scope of the EURO-FOS project has focused on four key areas of photonics research: digital optical transmission systems; optical sources and amplification; high-speed optical network subsystems; and next-generation optical access subsystems.

“Everybody knows what a cellphone is, for example, but they don’t always know about the underlying technology that makes it work and how innovation could make it work better,” Avramopoulos said. “As photonics technology matures, it will go from experimental research applications to find its way into an increasing number of applications in the real world, with potentially enormous benefits for everyone. EURO-FOS has made a considerable contribution toward that goal.”

For more information, visit:
Jul 2013
optical communications
The transmission and reception of information by optical devices and sensors.
BusinessCommunicationsCORDISEnglandEURO-FOSEurofoslabEuropeEuropean CommissionEuropean Unionfiber opticsGreeceHercules AvramopoulosNational Technical University of Athensoptical communicationsoptical fibersopticsPan-European Photonics Task ForceResearch & TechnologyUniversity of Essex

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