Optical components

EDFA Inventors Picked as Millennium Prize Finalists

Optical networking researchers Dr. Randy Giles, Professor Emmanuel Desurvire, and Professor David Payne have been named as finalists for the Millennium Technology Prize for their work in developing Erbium Doped-Fiber Amplifiers (EDFAs). (See Optical Researchers Recognized.)

In optical networks, wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) allows carriers to use more of a fiber's capacity by allowing for the transmission of multiple signals at the same time. But even after the discovery of WDM, Giles says, there were "no viable amplifiers to boost the signal."

Payne's discovery of erbium's ability to amplify light signals in optical fibers led to the invention of the EDFA as a way to boost optical signals without converting them to electronic signals first. Ultimately, Giles says, the innovation "gave us bandwidth at an affordable cost."

The EDFA "was the huge enabler that launched the WDM market," says Heavy Reading analyst Sterling Perrin. "It was a launching pad for all the other innovations in the market, and it has impacted the entire telecom industry."

One immediate impact of EDFAs was in submarine networking, where signals travel thousands of miles under the world's oceans. In the mid-to-late '90s, several submarine projects worldwide shifted from optoelectronic amplifiers to EDFAs, and now it is the technology of choice on such routes.

Giles and Desurvire were employed at Bell Labs (now Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)) at the time of the discovery. Giles is now the director of Optical Subsystems and Advanced Photonics there, while Desurvire is the director of the Physics Research Group at Thales Research & Technology. Payne is now the director of the Optoelectronics Research Center at the University of Southampton.

Giles says the discovery was the result of "scientific cooperation, exchange, and freedom of knowledge. It came from being aware of each others' work." And yes, this kind of collaboration was possible before Facebook.

The Millennium Technology Prize was founded in 2004 and, in spite of its name, is awarded every two years for "technological research and innovation that has a positive impact on the quality of life." Previous winners included Tim Berners-Lee in 2004 for his work on the the World Wide Web and Shuji Nakamura in 2006 for the discovery of new sources of light. [Ed. note: Oh, inside the refrigerator?]

This time around, four innovations have been chosen as finalists for the award. The winner will be announced at a ceremony on June 11 in Finland, the country that pioneered "wife-carrying" as a sport.

— Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading

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rahat.hussain 12/5/2012 | 3:43:53 PM
re: EDFA Inventors Picked as Millennium Prize Finalists From the Millenium prize website:

"Dr. Emmanuel Desurvire, Dr. Randy Giles and Professor David Payne are the men behind the erbium-doped fibre amplifier. Desurvire and Giles were working together at the famous Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, USA, and Payne was at Southampton University. These two groups were competitors, but spurred each other on, benefiting from each otherG«÷s work. Prof Payne was first to publish a paper about erbium-doped fibre amplifiers, but Dr Desurvire and Dr Giles were first to make it a working tool."

Can some of the Bell Labs guys comment on the last part? All I remember from Desurvire and Giles were boatloads of equations - how did they make this a working tool?

<- old man whose memory is clearly fading
fabius 12/5/2012 | 3:43:45 PM
re: EDFA Inventors Picked as Millennium Prize Finalists To be precise the first group that showed the amplification in rare earth fiber was the Shoa Digonnet group in stanford well in advance of the two groups cited.The two groups demonstrated EDFA in Labs pumped with argon, krypton laser or Dye lasers. The first EDFA pumped with semiconductor lasers usable in telecom networks where showed by British telecom with 850 nm laser diode and Pirelli with 980 nm laser diodes.
didjeridoo%% 12/5/2012 | 3:43:40 PM
re: EDFA Inventors Picked as Millennium Prize Finalists Not this precise.
Prior to the cited work, Shaw (not Shoa!) & Digonnet worked on Nd-doped, crystal-rod/fibre-like amplifiers. That's distant reality from single-mode, silica-based, RE-doped fibres. In addition there is nowhere in the literature a Stanford TW amplifier experiment.
Right about the BT demo of 800nm LD-pumped EDFA, to recall a few 100s of mw pump for a miserable 1-2 dB gain.
For Pirelly, never heard of, what reference ?
People who know the story might instead quote Nakazawa et al. 01/1989 APL paper on "efficient, 1480nm LD-pumped EDFA."

didjeridoo%% 12/5/2012 | 3:43:37 PM
re: EDFA Inventors Picked as Millennium Prize Finalists Actually 1989 was the year of world-first "LD-pumped" EDFAs with NTT (Nakazawa, Hagimoto et al) and KDD (Edagawa et al) leading the show at OFC'89 then IOOC'89 with 1.2-1.8Gbit/210-276km practical system demos.
That Pirelli paper of OFC'89 (11Gbit, 151km) used a color-center laser for EDFA pumping, so itG«÷s no significant advance (except for bit-rate x distance, so what..) as compared to the above.
As to earlier work, you should also mention Stone & Burrus of Bell Labs with their first LD-pumped silica fiber lasers (1973/74), as a follow-up development of Koester & Snitzer "Amplification in a fiber laser"(1962), based on flash-lamp pumping. Both concerned Nd-doped devices for 1.06um applications, exclusively. The EDFA invention and development falls into the later 1.55um telecom window paradigm. There are surely lots of patents in this area and probably various opportunists to have cashed in, but who ripes legal benefits is an issue left to lawyers, not open to public consideration (Yawn..).
In any case, if the Koester-Snitzer/Stone-Burrus work is considered pioneering, then the Stanford contribution with Nd-crystalline fibres (which incidentally failed to prove any TW amplification) should be considered as secondary of minor despite scientific interest.
The real champions of EDFA, who G«£made it happenG«•, are the SU and BL teams. The scientifically-minded and people who know what they are talking about regarding EDFA, can be only feel highly supportive of these selected individuals for their ultimate recognition.
fabius 12/5/2012 | 3:43:37 PM
re: EDFA Inventors Picked as Millennium Prize Finalists My comments
Shaw sorry for the mistaken name and digonnet are owner of a patent on optical amplifier dated 1982 which has been recognized as the prior art for all fiber amplifiers patents and are getting royalties from it
Pirelli references are 1989 paper with Bellcore G imlet on a 200 km EDFA amplified link at 11 Gbit/s as an example.
Japanese work on EDFA is surely significant
In any case as far as the real inventor of singlemode fiber amplifier is concerned Snitzer at polaroid proposed this solution in the 70 and so
should get the reward.the other are only followers
^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 3:43:36 PM
re: EDFA Inventors Picked as Millennium Prize Finalists interesting discussion.

Lots of folks deserve credit for making edfa's a working solution.

And lots did significant prior research to develop fundamentals even before the requisite materials science was available or developed to make edfa a working reality.

Pirelli surely deserves credit for being key part of the effort to figure out how to actually make erbium doped fiber and hence some of the first deployable edfa's.

Southhampton team was also key as well as Bell Labs and Japan/NTT.

Also, don't forget the folks who figured out how to make an effective pump that could be made commercially and with both enough power and yield to make the technical and business model actually work. SDL anyone? Or heck, even Dr. Kroemer from UCSB (former bell labs) who came up with the semiconductor laser. Couldn't have happened without that little jewel either.

I think it is great to give credit, but think the Millenium Prize should have given better, wider credit.
busted 12/5/2012 | 3:43:35 PM
re: EDFA Inventors Picked as Millennium Prize Finalists 980nm pump? SDL

As I recall, IBM Zurich figured this out, not SDL? I often see SDL getting credit, but I think IBM pulled it off. Can someone set me straight?

As I recall SDL later bought technology from IBM (along with Lasertron and others) to enable them to make 980nm pumps that didn't burn out the front mirror.
rahat.hussain 12/5/2012 | 3:43:32 PM
re: EDFA Inventors Picked as Millennium Prize Finalists Thank you for the knowledgeable comments from the readers. I have now gone back and looked at papers on EDFA as well and evaluated levels of credit and ownership based on the following criteria:

1) First to demonstrate a rare-earth doped fiber amplifier
2) First to fabricate an Erbium doped fiber
3) First to fabricate an EDFA
4) First to demonstrate an EDFA-based system

And I can find many reasons for picking Dave Payne - he was the head of the Southampton group that made significant advances in EDFAs.

More interestingly, though, I cannot find a single reason for picking Giles and Desurvire to be on the same list! Maybe the only reason this is the case is that Giles is the only surviving member of a group of twenty who is still at Bell Labs and Desurvire was Senior Director of Alcatel when this nomination may have been made. There is no clear sign of ownership or credit that can be given to these two. Unless you had to be an employee of the newly merged ALU.

Based on my research of path-breaking papers and announced products, here are some pioneers who actually made erbium fibers, EDFAs and system demonstrations at the old Bell Labs:

David DiGiovanni (fibers), Atul Srivastava & Yan Sun (OAs), John Zyskind & Neal Bergano (systems), and I am sure there are others.

While the EDFA clearly deserves recognition (although not as much as, say, the Viterbi algorithm or the DNA fingerprinting), it would be important to right this accreditation.

I wonder if OSA and IEEE are even paying attention!

<- back with a recharged memory from a decade ago!
^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 3:43:30 PM
re: EDFA Inventors Picked as Millennium Prize Finalists ODO,

good back ground research. better than what we got from our "reporters" in this case.

I agree, Southampton staff were critical in making an actually working EDFA that could realistically be deployed. Also Pirelli is who figured out how to make the erbium doped fiber that is still essential to this day in making an EDFA. (despite the best efforts by some to make SOA's replace an edfa, or even those who have spent and lost buckets of VC money on EDWA based on doped planar waveguides in class... EDFA is still what makes our world "go round").

Yes, IBM did some key work, as did others. Especially early theoretical work by bell labs, ntt, etc.

But it took a real world doped fiber, real world edfa design that was robust and yieldable, and a good pump laser that was commercially viable with high yields (SDL...)

thanks again for your good background research. well done.

fabius 12/5/2012 | 3:43:30 PM
re: EDFA Inventors Picked as Millennium Prize Finalists I think we all agree on the fact that the real inventor of EDFA concept is Snitzer who made work on neodimium and Erbium fiber amplifiers. The missing point in snitzer work was the end pumping through WDM device which was shown and patented by Stanford group.
As regards the work on the 80s the leaders that took up the relay from previous concepts where Desurvier at bell labs who was working with argon laser pumping, Payne at Southampton which used Krypton laser and color center laser, BT at Mattlesham who where using AL GaAS 800 nm semiconductor lasers, NTT with 1.48 InP lasers ,Pirelli that used diode pumped YAG lasers and 980 nm semiconductor lasers from RCA, IBM and SDL all developped independently. I think all those groups who worked very hard from 1985 to 1990 made it possible to pass the EDFA from a concept to a lab experiment to a usable product and should be rewarded
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