An EPFL study among the 30 greatest discoveries in optics

© 2020 EPFL

© 2020 EPFL

The Optical Society nominated Luc Thévenaz's research on signal amplification in hollow core optical fibres as one of the year's major advances in optics. 

Professor Luc Thévenaz's research has been selected by the Optical Society - the largest society of optical researchers - as one of the 30 greatest optical discoveries of the year. A summary is published in the group's magazine, Optics & Photonics News. "This is an important recognition by our peers. It shows that our research has a real impact on the scientific community," says the professor from the School of Engineering and head of the Fiber Optics Group. 

Through its journal, the Optical Society highlights major optical research published over the past year. A panel of editors reviewed a preselection of 115 abstracts of work by researchers from around the world. They selected 30 articles that they felt communicated breakthroughs of particular interest to the scientific community in optics and photonics.

© 2020 EPFL

Luc Thévenaz's study with his collaborators Fan Yang and Flavien Gyger focuses on signal amplification in hollow core optical fibres. As the air in the fibre is put under pressure, a disturbance is then created. It works in a similar way to optical tweezers – the air molecules are compressed and form into regularly spaced clusters. This creates a sound wave that increases in amplitude and effectively diffracts the light from a powerful source towards the weakened beam so that it is amplified up to 100,000 times. This technique therefore makes the light considerably more powerful. And this technology can be applied to any type of light, from infrared to ultraviolet, and to any gas. This article has been published in Nature Photonics. “It's all about teamwork," says Thévenaz.

According to the scientist, this research is part of a longer-term vision. “2021 will likely witness the advent of low loss hollow-core optical fibres outperforming the classical solid core fibres. This will be a revolutionary breakthrough, primarily for longer distance telecommunications with drastically reduced distortions and cross-talks for a higher density of information, but also for distributed fibre sensing that may enter into a new dimension by exploiting the huge flexibility of a customizable gaseous medium”, says Thévenaz.