The University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) has been playing an active part in events celebrating the 2015 International Year of Light (IYL 2015). The aim of this International Year, proclaimed by the United Nations and backed by a large consortium of scientific bodies together with UNESCO, is to raise global awareness of the way in which light-based technologies provide solutions to global challenges. Everyday life without these technologies would be unimaginable. Photonics, or the science of light, lies behind barcode scanners, remote TV control, fiber optic-based telecommunications such as the internet and mobile phones, eye surgery, laser cutting, infrared cameras, even artificial Christmas trees.
The ORC has played a pivotal role in developing fibre optics and today’s communications network. Forty years ago, Professor Sir David Payne (now director of the ORC) and Alec Gambling developed new fabrication techniques to produce ultra-pure fibres, which led to explosive growth in optical communications. This was followed by the invention of the first practical optical amplifier, the effect of which was to make huge amounts of bandwidth available at low cost over very long distances. This was a major pre-requisite for the formation of the Internet as it is today.
As a gold sponsor, of the IYL 2015, the ORC has hosted a number of events and exhibitions, including a Communicating with Light event on International Women’s Day, and the Light-themed Science and Engineering Day in March.