Adelaide leads the way in new generation optical fibres

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

A new research centre to be launched at the University of Adelaide this week will help boost Australia's defence capability and enable new key fibre-optic applications for industry, communications and biological and medical technology.

The Centre of Expertise in Photonics is leading the world in the development of a new generation of optical fibres.

Photonics is the science and technology that allows the generation and control of light using glass optical fibres. The Centre of Expertise in Photonics is working on the design, fabrication, development and applications of a new class of optical fibres - soft glass microstructured fibres - which have significant benefits over the conventional silica-based optical fibres.

The Centre is part of a strategic alliance between the University of Adelaide and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), with support from the State Government. It enables Australia to lead the rest of the world in a new area of technology and has moved Australia ahead in a critical niche field.

Centre of Expertise in Photonics Director, Professor Tanya Monro, said: "The recently installed laboratories at the University are the first facilities in Australia to produce soft glass microstructured fibres, and the Centre is now positioned to do internationally leading work in this area."

The Centre will support defence projects that are increasingly reliant on advances in photonics.

Deputy Chief Defence Scientist (Information) Mr Neil Bryans said: "Scientific expertise in photonics is fundamental to the development of many modern defence systems, especially communications and remote sensing, therefore the Centre is a strategic initiative to build Australia's defence and industry sector photonics capability."

Minister for Science and Information Economy Karlene Maywald said South Australia already had a significant capability in electronic warfare with more than 650 people working in the industry and DSTO.

"With the development of optical fibres, we can further grow the State's electronic warfare industry base and increase the chances of winning future defence contracts," she said.

University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor, Professor James McWha, said: "The Centre exemplifies how the University is forging valuable partnerships which aim to lead the nation in new and exciting fields of technology and research, as well as providing students with a rewarding opportunity to be part of this new evolving world."

The Centre aims to increase the number of students studying photonics to support the needs of local industry and defence. Combined with the launch of the Centre, will be the inaugural awards of DSTO-funded undergraduate scholarships for the best students enrolled in the University's Bachelor of Science degree in Optics and Photonics.

DSTO funding support to the Centre of Expertise in Photonics includes $400,000 for initial infrastructure establishment and ongoing funding of $400,000 per year for up to five years, plus additional support for a range of research tasks so far exceeding $1million.

The South Australian Government has contributed more than $400,000 to the Centre from the Premier's Science and Research Fund and from the State Government Defence Unit.

The official opening of the Centre of Expertise in Photonics will take place on Wednesday, 31 May at the University of Adelaide's North Terrace campus.


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