Over the past few years, the rush to commercialize new optical products has meant that a lot of fundamental science issues have been left by the wayside. Now, with the industry in its "quiet period," it's the perfect opportunity to redress the balance, says one university professor with a desire to stay out of the limelight.
Consider the invention of the laser and erbium-doped fiber amplifier (EDFA), he says. Both were the fruits of fundamental research by boffins who had no inkling of how their inventions would underpin the development of a new multibillion-dollar industry. Similar initiatives are needed, he feels, to secure the future of optical technology in five to ten years time.
It must be said that academics can afford to be more far-seeing, being insulated to some extent from the financial boom and bust that's befallen the telecom industry. University and research institute funding is typically awarded in three- to six-year tranches, sometimes longer -- enough to sit out an entire boom-bust cycle.
ECOC, of course, is the place to see both applied and fundamental research in action. Here's Light Reading's pick of the hottest developments presented at the conference.
Hero Experiments 40 Gbit/s was the sweet spot for hero experiments this year.
All-Optical Wavelength Conversion
No fewer than six postdeadline papers outlined improvements in devices for wavelength conversion. This represents progress towards making the all-optical equivalent of the electronic repeater. Here are some examples:
A number of papers described advanced subsystems such as dispersion compensators, reconfigurable add/drops, and wavelength selective crossconnects. In addition, there were advances in making long-wavelength Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSELs), a type of laser that is inherently cheaper to manufacture than standard DFB types.
— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading