Aston targets spectroscopy revolution with optical frequency comb devices

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Aston University in the UK is heading up a European collaboration that will explore new optical frequency technology and its applications in areas including telecommunications and the food industry. 

Based at the University’s Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies (AIPT) the project, which has received £1.6m of EPSRC funding, aims to revolutionise spectroscopy by driving the development of a new family of light sources based on Optical Frequency Comb (OFC) technology: laser sources which act as ultra-precise optical rulers for measuring exact frequencies of light.

optical frequency comb
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The Aston team, led by AIPT director Professor Sergei Turitsyn, will both develop novel advanced optical frequency comb technologies and explore feasibility of the developed methods in several fields of major practical importance.

One area of interest is within the food supply chain and agricultural technology where the technology could be used to prevent contamination by detecting toxic or noxious substances. Other applications include high speed optical communications, monitoring greenhouse gases concentration outdoors, gas concentrations in industrial settings, optical sensing, and many other applications across many industrial sectors.


The project is being run in partnership with the Universities of Nice Sophia Antipolis and Lille in France and involves industrial partners including BAE Systems, Xtere, Thales, OFS, Highways England, Eblana Photonics, Pilot Photonics and Branscan.

Prof Turitsyn said: “We are happy to receive this EPSRC award that will allow us together with the two French academic centres both to advance frequency comb technology exploiting new nonlinear science concepts and immediately apply developed technology to highly important practical problems. This is also an example of the post-Brexit collaboration that demonstrates that science unites people.”

The project is one of 12 international collaborations which are receiving a total of £17 million investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), with partners providing cash and in-kind contributions. Other initiatives include a partnership between the University of Exeter and NASA aimed at developing new materials for climate monitoring and a collaboration between leading UK and US universities on the development of advanced visible light communications technology.