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Pioneering the technology of tomorrow. Optoelectronics Research Centre

Welcome to the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) The ORC is a world-leading research centre dedicated to photonics – the study of light. Based at the University of Southampton, our history spans over 40 years. Today we are one of the largest and most successful photonics groups in the world.


Many of the major developments in today’s global technology were pioneered by our researchers. These include the optical fibres and amplifiers that power the internet and the fibre laser which is used for a variety of applications ranging from manufacturing to defence. Led by leading figures in photonics, our vibrant community is a constant hive of activity with over 170 staff and students working on cutting-edge research to provide innovative solutions for real life problems in health care, manufacturing, communications, technology, defence, energy and the environment. Our enthusiasm for innovation and enterprise has culminated in a ‘light valley’ of 10 companies based in and around Southampton, commercialising the success of our research. We continue to maintain strong links with our companies who often invest into new research initiatives, employ our graduates and provide a marketplace for new ideas, applications and technology. We have excellent relationships with business and industry both in the UK and internationally, providing support through joint research projects, consultancy, commercialisation of research, knowledge transfer and commissioning of our state-of-the-art facilities. Our mission is to drive the basic science, technology and innovations to enable future revolutions. This brochure provides an overview of the Optoelectronics Research Centre and our world-leading research. Detailed up-to-date information can be found online. Relevant web links are shown throughout the brochure.



1. Making a difference: Photonics research Photonics and health, communication, manufacturing, environment, defence and technology. Page 4 2. Light years ahead: Pioneering the fibre laser Revolutionary technology regarded as being 15 years ahead of its time. Page 6


3. Generation next: Transforming the internet Research to combat the threat of network gridlock. Page 8 4. The next photonics revolution: Nanostructured photonic metamaterials Developing a new generation of revolutionary switchable and nanostructured photonic media. Page 10


5. Outstanding academics The ORC is led by some of the world’s top scientists in the field of optoelectronics. Page 12

In this prospectus World-leading research


Creating impact


State-of-the-art facilities


Industry and innovation


Photonics PhD programme



Making a difference: Photonics research Photonics and health

Photonics and the environment

The way matter emits, modifies or responds to light has the potential to tell us everything we need to know about its structure and properties and is a crucial tool in developing new medical procedures.

The threat of global warming and increased demand for affordable green energy sources prompted researchers at the ORC to work on improving the structure of the solar cells used within current solar panels. The light-trapping technologies they develop could reduce the amount of expensive semiconductor materials needed in solar panels, and directly reduce the cost of the devices.

Our researchers are using these properties to aid the development of new cancer screening methods and point of care diagnostics for other diseases, as well as investigating stem cell biology applications pertinent to regenerative medicine.

Photonics and communication The internet has become part of everyday life from shopping to participating in meetings on the other side of the world without setting foot on a plane. Things we now take for granted which wouldn’t have been possible without the development of low loss optical fibres and optical amplifiers by ORC researchers. Even today our teams are striving to meet consumer demands for faster connectivity and higher bandwidth.

Photonics and manufacturing Some major advances in the manufacturing and materials processing industry have been based around the manipulation of light. ORC researchers have developed high power fibre lasers with the ability to cut, mark and weld materials as thin as a human hair and as thick as inches of solid steel. Many everyday commodities are now manufactured and processed using light, from your car to your mp3 player.


Another area of environmental interest is pollution. Researchers have been developing biosensors that provide cost-effective and continuous monitoring of environmental pollution of rivers.

Photonics and defence The optical fibres that connect us to the rest of the world are also being used on a daily basis to help protect and defend the armed forces. Fibre optics have been integrated into missiles allowing them to be guided and controlled in flight and establish their missile position with respect to the target.

Photonics and technology Modern day technology that is now taken for granted would not have been possible without photonics research leading to the invention of the first laser in 1960. Today we listen to music, surf the net, and play video games using laser technology! Our researchers are working with lasers and other aspects of photonics to develop the technology products of tomorrow.

Photo courtesy of Sam Berry


“The fibre laser challenges views on how to make things, how to repair things, and how to destroy things. It is changing every industry and discipline it encounters.” Professor David Payne Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre


Light years ahead. Pioneering the fibre laser Twenty-ten marked the 25th anniversary of the fibre laser, pioneered at the University of Southampton in the 1980s when our scientists integrated lasers into optical fibres. The fibre laser was “born” following the development of the optical telecoms fibre amplifier by Professor David Payne and his team in 1985. Its origins lie in the same silica fibre that powers the internet, and when it was first unveiled, its revolutionary technology was regarded as being 15 years ahead of its time. Today, fibre lasers are used widely in telecommunications, manufacturing, medicine and science. The technology has multiple applications worldwide, ranging from cutting steel, making cars and date-stamping fruit, to clearing landmines. It is also used daily by those of us working online for amplifying signals on the web. “The fibre laser challenges views on how to make things, how to repair things, and how to destroy things.” comments David, Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre. “It is changing every industry and discipline it encounters.” The strengths of fibre lasers lie in their stability, their beam quality, and the fact that they can achieve very high levels of power. They are also far more efficient than other lasers in their use of energy.

Looking ahead to the next 50 years, our researchers will show how laser technology can be applied to new challenges, such as healthcare diagnostics and treatment, increasing internet capacity and creating renewable energy sources.



Generation next. Transforming the internet The internet has become a vital part of modern life for business, learning and leisure. Demand is continuing to grow rapidly with the more recent introductions of bandwidth-hungry applications such as video-on-demand, online television players and online gaming; the threat of network gridlock is becoming a major concern. The optical fibres and amplifiers that form the internet infrastructure today were pioneered by researchers at the University of Southampton in the 1980s. With world-leading expertise in this area it is no surprise that the ORC has been awarded two multi-million pound research grants to lead the UK and Europe in developing the next generation internet infrastructure to support the needs of 21st century life.

“Transforming the Internet Infrastructure – The Photonics Hyperhighway” project in 2010. The ORC is collaborating with the High Performance Network Group of the University of Essex along with industry project partners Fianium,Oclaro and BBC Research and Development to pioneer the next generation internet infrastructure. The second research grant has been funded by the EU. The ¤11.8m MODE-GAP project combines the expertise of eight worldleading photonics partners who will work together to increase the capacity of broadband networks. Over the coming years, our researchers will look to pioneer both the transmission technologies and data processing techniques that will improve the data carrying capacity of our networks to meet demand and revolutionise the internet.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) awarded a £7.5m Programme Grant for the


The next photonics revolution: Nanostructured photonic metamaterials Over the last twenty years, photonics has played a key role in creating the world as we know it. It is impossible to imagine modern society without the internet or mobile phones; CDs or DVDs, underpinned by the development of lasers; modern display technologies or laserassisted manufacturing – all made possible by the implementation of the optical fibre network.


We believe that the next photonics revolution will be fuelled by a dependence on radically new types of photonic materials called ‘metamaterials’. Metamaterials are artificial electromagnetic media with unusual and useful functionalities achieved by structuring on a sub-wavelength scale. Nanotechnology-enabled materials are now universally seen as a direction where the global economy will grow strongly in the 21st century.

The EPSRC have funded the Centre for Nanostructured Photonic Metamaterials, based at the ORC, to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of research in this area. The ÂŁ6m EPSRC investment will fund an innovative and interdisciplinary research programme, led by ORC Deputy Director, Professor Nikolay Zheludev. The centre brings together a multidisciplinary team of researchers from across the University with the aim of developing a new generation of revolutionary

switchable and active nanostructured photonic media to provide groundbreaking solutions for telecoms, energy and light generation, imaging, lithography, data storage, sensing, security and defence applications. These goals will be achieved by advancing the physics of the control, guiding and ampliďŹ cation of light in nanostructures and by developing new nanofabrication techniques, hybridisation processes and procedures for the integration of novel metamaterial structures into waveguide and ďŹ bre environments.


Outstanding academics

Professor David Payne, ORC Director

Professor David Richardson, ORC Deputy Director

Professor David Payne is an internationally distinguished research leader in photonics. His contributions in optoelectronics have had a major impact on telecommunications. He made long distance optical communication a reality through the development of low loss silica optical fibres and the first telecommunications optical amplifiers: both these inventions form the backbone of the internet today.

Professor David Richardson is a world-class telecommunications and optics pioneer. He has produced many world firsts and record results for performance and applications of fibre-based devices resulting in around 700 conference and journal papers and 20 patents.

David also pioneered the fibre laser, an invention that was regarded as 15 years ahead of its time and today is used in industries ranging from manufacturing to defence. He is one of the most highly honoured members of the photonics community and has been awarded the top American, European and Japanese prizes in photonics, a rare achievement. Most recently in 2010, David was awarded the Association of Laser Users award for his important contributions in the development of industrial laser materials processing in the UK through his innovative work in fibre lasers.


Leading the optical fibre device and systems research at the ORC, David has developed a thriving programme focusing primarily on telecommunications, ultrafast fibre lasers and microstructured optical fibres. Over the last twenty years he has maintained a strong international reputation and track record for world class fibre optics research. In 2009 David was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in recognition for his contributions to engineering.

Led by some of the leading figures in the field, members of our vibrant research community are regularly presented with prestigious awards in recognition for their pioneering work.

Professor Nikolay Zheludev, ORC Deputy Director Professor Nikolay Zheludev is a world leader in the field of experimental nanophotonics and metamaterials, an emerging area that promises to be the next photonic revolution. He leads a major research effort in the UK’s photonics community coordinating the Southampton Centre for Nanostructured Metamaterials. Since 2000, he has been awarded, as Principal Investigator, 19 UK and European research grants totalling more than £17.5m. Nikolay’s research reputation is derived from more than a hundred plenary and invited talks at major international conferences. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Optics (IOP), and has been appointed to several other editorial boards. In 2009 Nikolay was awarded a Wolfson Research Merit Award by the Royal Society.

Prestigious research fellowships held by ORC staff: 3 Fellows of the Royal Society 3 Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering Early Career Fellowships: 3 Royal Society fellowships 3 Royal Academy of Engineering fellowships 1 EPSRC fellowship

Our world-leading research teams are focused on creating innovative solutions to real life problems over a broad range of industries. By combining dierent science and engineering disciplines our research centre provides an extremely fertile ground for discovery.


World-leading research We have over 30 research groups working on a wide variety of projects individually or in collaboration with other ORC groups, other institutions and industry worldwide. The work of our researchers falls under the following broad themes:

Fundamental photonics Work on quantum electronics, modelling and theory combine with the empirical and applications to increase the fundamental understanding of light and matter. This also involves exploration of emerging fields, and predicting new techniques and areas that will be fruitful.

Micro and nanoscale optical technologies lie at the heart of our activities in microfluidic lab-on-a-chip devices which are designed for a range of biomedical science applications including detection of proteins involved in inflammation and their interplay with neurological function, sensitive detection of single copies of genomic DNA and aberrant sequences as well as stem cell biology applications pertinent to regenerative medicine.

Optical fibres

The history of the optical fibre is closely linked to the ORC and that association continues today. Our acclaimed expertise in the fabrication and processing Light generation & manipulation of optical fibres feeds into much of our other research. Originating in our laboratories, modelling and fabrication We work with optical wavelengths from beyond 10 microns in the infrared to the ultraviolet, and even x-rays. of microstructured optical fibres is an area where the Research covers new laser sources, optical and non-linear ORC is at the forefront. We have also developed key innovations in optical fibres for communications that processes, the control of light at its extremes, as well as pushing the limits on power, efficiency, beam quality and underpin modern telecommunications networks, and continue to work on increasing bandwidth, switching flexibility. This specifically includes our revolutionary speed and flexibility for fibre-based systems. work on scaling of power and brightness for fibre and solid state lasers. We also have dedicated facilities for Optical materials ultrafast high-power laser pulse generation, used for The foundation of the majority of research at the ORC exploring non-linear processes and x-ray generation. is our expertise in materials processing. This extends Nanophotonics & metamaterials from glasses based on silica and chalcogenides to more exotic crystal materials and includes metamaterials, The fields of nanophotonics and metamaterials are microstructures and nanotechnology. concerned with achieving efficient control over light on the nanoscale, where a remarkable range Optical networks & systems of new phenomena are found with wide-ranging Historically, the ORC has had a radical impact on potential applications in low-power, high-speed, ultra-small devices. We anticipate that the next photonic telecommunications through our materials, devices revolution will be fuelled by a dependence upon photonic and systems work. This continues, as the boundaries of technologies such as ultra broadband provisioning metamaterials and nanophotonic devices leading to to the home are extended. In addition to higher dramatic new science and applications on a global scale. bandwidth applications, research into all-optical Optical biosensors & biophotonics switching and processing is another active area. This also includes integration of optical components Over the last decade our understanding in all areas of with semiconductor devices. biological and biomedical sciences has advanced at an incredible rate. With this, the need for more sensitive, Sensing multiplexed optical technologies has grown for use Sensing is another key system-level activity at the as point-of-care diagnostics as well as tools for tackling ORC. Sensors based on fibres, planar or hybrid devices so far unanswered bioscience questions. are used for mechanical, electromagnetic, chemical and biological sensing applications.


Creating impact Annually our researchers publish over 250 papers, give 25 invited and plenary talks at conferences and file approximately 20 patents. Between 2005 and 2010 the ORC’s citation impact was 1.45 times the world average for optics. The UK’s highest cited paper in photonics (from 2004-present) “Ytterbium-doped large-core fibre laser with 1.36 kW continuous output power; Optics Express (Dec ’04) with 235 cites (world no. 8) is from the ORC. Annually our researchers publish over 250 papers, give 25 invited and plenary talks at conferences and file approximately 20 patents.

Quality research Research submitted to the RAE 2008 jointly with the University’s Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) and Physics and Astronomy departments was rated as world leading and internationally excellent.

Funding Our research attracts investment and sponsorship from both government and industry worldwide. One of our key sponsors, The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC), has been supporting our research for nearly 50 years.


Recent investment includes two major programme grants totalling over £13m and an EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Photonics – £4.7m. In addition to funding from UK government bodies we have also been awarded funding for a number of projects from the European Union. Our innovative spirit and strong links with industry have attracted a number of key investments from companies ranging from ORC spinouts in the local area to multinational companies. A further £4.6m has been invested into the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Photonics by 13 industry partners. For more information about the current work of our researchers please visit:

Optical fibre preform facilities

State-of-the-art facilities The ORC’s state-of-the-art suite of over 100 specialist optical laboratories and clean rooms provide the foundations for outstanding research and innovation in photonics technology. Our continuous investment ensures that all our researchers benefit from the world-class facilities that make the ORC a premier research centre internationally. Our headquarters house over 1000m² of optical laboratories upgraded with brand new equipment. These range from high power fibre laser laboratories to telecommunications labs. Our Mountbatten building provides a purposebuilt state-of-the-art interdisciplinary cleanroom, laboratory and office complex representing over £100m investment in UK science and technology. It provides a base for fundamental and applied research in photonics and nanotechnology.

Our facilities in Mountbatten include: – 940m² of optical/laser labs and support areas – 360m² of class 10000 cleanroom space primarily for the fabrication of optical fibres using silica, novel compounds and chalcogenides – 215m² of class 1000 cleanroom space primarily for planar-related processing – photolithography, deposition equipment, wet etching, furnaces, mask aligners and analysis equipment – 120m² of CAT 2 Bio-lab areas We pride ourselves in the success of our research and ensure that our researchers have access to the equipment they need to continue and maintain our position as world-leaders.


Working with industry The ORC has excellent relationships with business and industry world wide, providing support through joint research projects, consultancy, commercialisation of research, knowledge transfer and use of our facilities. As a member of the South East Photonics Network (SEPNET), we are in regular contact with over 250 photonics- related companies and institutions based in the South East of England.

We have strong links with industry, research institutions and universities around the world, from informal collaborations to large-scale funded programmes.

We are also heavily involved with Innovation China UK, connecting five UK universities and over twenty Chinese partner institutions with a view to enhancing knowledge exchange and facilitating technology transfer, commercialisation and new collaborative opportunities.

We are always interested in exploring new areas and are open to suggestions for new and interesting collaborations where a combination of expertise may be mutually beneficial.

Collaboration There is a long history of discovery and innovation at the ORC, and collaborations with other organisations both academic and industrial have been fundamental to our success. Our research groups are constantly working on projects in joint collaboration with external parties, drawing on each other’s knowledge, skills, experience and specialist equipment.

Consultancy A number of our researchers work with industry in a consultancy role, advising and sharing their expertise and skills. There are a range of consultancy projects currently under way with a wide range of industrial partners including some of our spin-out companies. Analytical services We have the expertise and equipment to provide a full range of analytical measures including the measurement of optical powers, compositions and microscopes. We also have a range of thermal analysers. Optical components

Industry success An ORC industry collaboration with Stingray Geophysical was awarded the 2010 IET Team Innovation Award. The IET judges were “exceptionally impressed” by the Stingray Forsar Deep team’s performance. The project was described as a “textbook demonstration of innovative engineering.”


Highly regarded for our supply of optical components to companies, the ORC is a world leader in the design and fabrication of specialist optical fibres. We are frequently asked to supply companies with fibres drawn in our state-of-the-art fibre fabrication facilities. To make an enquiry about the services we offer please email:

Innovation Patents Our novel research often leads to the invention of new applications and technology. To retain our rights over these developments we file around 20 patents every year. Southampton light valley Our innovative research often leads to the development of applications that can be exploited commercially. As a result there is now a ‘light valley’ of photonics companies in the Southampton area that have roots to the ORC. These companies have boosted both the local and UK economy and attracted inward investment.

Our Light Valley includes: ChG Southampton – Launched to develop and exploit commercial opportunities of novel glasses, in particular chalcogenide materials Covesion – Develops and sells non-linear optical technologies based on PPLN Fianium – Fibre laser company manufacturing and developing ultra-fast, high power laser systems Fibercore – Manufactures and supplies speciality optical fibre Photon Kinetics – A leading supplier of measurement solutions for the optical fibre, cable and component manufacturing industry Point Source – Designs and manufactures high performance fibre optic laser delivery systems and lasers for commercial applications in biotechnology and semiconductor manufacturing Sensa – The world’s leading provider of fibre optic temperature sensing solutions Smart Fibres – Optical fibre sensor solutions for testing, design validation, condition monitoring and smart structures Southampton Photonics Inc – Develops and manufactures high power fibre lasers for a wide variety of marking and micromachining applications Stratophase – Optical solutions via laser wavelength conversion and integrated optical circuit technology, particularly Bragg gratings


The EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Photonics enables UK ďŹ rms to extend their product portfolios and introduce innovative yet cost-competitive manufacturing processes.


EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Photonics The EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Photonics was established in 2010 following an investment of £9m from the EPSRC and industry. The UK’s photonics industrial sector already accounts for a healthy 2.3% of the global photonics production volume. To ensure that UK is at the forefront of this fast-developing, fiercely competitive market, the EPSRC Centre is proactively engaging with and supporting the UK photonics industrial base. Our researchers are advancing the frontiers of understanding about photonic materials and specifically helping UK firms to extend their product portfolios and introduce innovative yet cost-competitive manufacturing processes. The photonics industrial sector comprises a majority of SMEs, who typically don’t have the resources to invest in the leading-edge R&D infrastructure vital to keep a competitive edge. The ESPRC Centre aims to address this issue by providing state-ofthe-art equipment and expertise that companies can exploit to help them design, develop and test technologies that really can keep the UK at the vanguard of the global photonics industry. The EPSRC Centre works with companies ranging from start-ups to well-established firms and liaises closely with research centres across Europe. Thirteen industrial partners are currently involved with the EPSRC Centre.

Industrial secondments play a key role in disseminating the knowledge and skills developed at the EPSRC Centre. As intellectual property is generated, the EPSRC Centre looks to exploit it, where appropriate, through joint ventures and spin-out companies such as the cluster of ten firms in the Southampton area already commercialising key aspects of ORC research. Professor David Payne, Director EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Photonics, comments: “It’s not just a question of the ability of photonics to penetrate existing markets, there’s also scope to expand into areas as diverse as defence, industrial processing, marine engineering, biomedicine, DNA processing and astronomy where conventional technologies simply aren’t an option. Optical fibres are even being used in the search for extraterrestrial life. The big challenge is to develop new-generation fibres and materials that can meet market needs and to identify commercially viable ways of manufacturing them.” If you are interested in working with the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Photonics please contact Dr Wei Loh email:

The Mountbatten Building


Illuminating the future. Photonics PhD programme We are looking for the photonics pioneers of the future to join our vibrant research team and work alongside our world-class researchers to create some history! Our PhD programme oers a solid start to any career in optics and photonics whether you are planning to stay in academia or work in industry. Working alongside some of the world’s leading photonics scientists, you will spend your time conducting novel research in our state-of-the-art facilities, keeping up to date with current research trends in photonics, writing journal papers and attending conferences.

Employability of our graduating students is very high with many being recruited by our own local spin out companies directly.


Our extensive training programme provides a thorough grounding for your PhD and future career through specialist photonics lectures and demonstrations, skills training for report writing and presenting and full safety training for your research area. In addition we also oer plenty of opportunities for networking with fellow researchers and potential employers through attendance at national and international conferences as well as internal industry and academic events. We have a number of fully funded positions including paid tuition fees and a tax free bursary for details please visit:

“For me the best thing about being an ORC student is having the facilities to take my research in the direction I want. It doesn’t happen everywhere and I’m lucky to have found a place where I am given the freedom to have my own ideas.” Helen Rogers, PhD student

Photo courtesy of James Gates

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ORC PGR Prospectus  
ORC PGR Prospectus