About the project
High power fibre lasers (HPFLs), developed first at the University of Southampton, have advanced beyond recognition. Output powers have increased by more than 4 orders of magnitude in the past 2 decades, reaching 10kW in a single beam. They are widely used in the most advanced production lines for cutting, welding, 3D printing and marking of a myriad of materials from glass to steel. However, we are now close to the maximum power that can be produced by a single fibre laser.
To continue increasing the power, new solutions must be found. Just as modern computers contain large numbers of processor cores rather than a single high-speed core, the future for HPFLs is in the combination of multiple fibre lasers
The successful combination of large numbers of fibre lasers would transform manufacturing. Such a breakthrough could enable control of all light properties, such as:
This would enable the creation of dynamically reconfigurable structured light that changes “on the fly” depending on the specific application. Such a “digital fibre laser” would not only make the UK a more prosperous nation, but also allow us to:
- protect against malevolent drones
- build the next generation of efficient and compact particle accelerators,
- clean-up space debris
- treat nuclear waste
All-in-all, making the world a better, cleaner, greener, and safer place.
The University of Southampton has recently been awarded £6million to solve the challenges associated with the creation of the “digital fibre laser”, and you will be part of this team effort.
You will be focussed on fabricating the next generation of optical fibres and novel materials, to overcome the limitations of current HPFLs and provide the passive and active silica fibres needed to meet the stringent requirements for the next generation of high-power fibre lasers.
New materials are key, because in photonics you rarely have the material you want, and hence novel performance and enhanced functionalities generally require development of new or further optimised materials.
You will be conducting fundamental research into novel fibre materials and geometries, with a focus on achieving near quantum-limited efficiency and low photodarkening, exploring new material combinations and fibre structures with low acousto-optic and thermo-optic coefficients, and demonstrating novel methods to fabricate polarisation-maintaining fibres.
To overcome these limitations, you will be using our recently developed modified chemical vapour deposition techniques in our state-of-the-art clean rooms that enable the fabrication of multi-layered preforms with complex rare-earth doping profiles.