International collaboration receives Charles Kao Award

Researchers from the Photonics Hyperhighway programme at the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) in Southampton, working with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and other international partners, have been awarded the prestigious Charles Kao Award for Best Optical Communications & Networking Paper by the IEEE Communications Society.

The award was given in recognition of the research paper, Single-Laser 32.5 Tbit/s Nyquist WDM Transmission, published in OSA/IEEE Journal, Optical Communications & Networking. The Charles Kao Award was established by the IEEE Communications Society this year and will be presented annually.

The paper describes pioneering work which achieved the highest line rate ever encoded from a single light source in a viable and energy-efficient way. The encoded data was transmitted over a total length of 227 km of SMF-28 without the use of any optical dispersion compensation.

This work has the potential to speed up transmission rates, so that information can be downloaded from the internet in the blink of an eye. For example, think of a broadband download rate which is a million times faster than the currently available speeds in our homes. Signifying a continuation of highly successful collaborative work between the ORC, KIT and a number of international research partners, the award was presented to Dr Francesca Parmigiani at IEEE ICC 2015 in London in June, on behalf of all the authors of the paper.

Francesca explains why the research is significant when exploring transmission in future optical networks and the role played by the ORC in this work.

“The importance of this is that we were able to start from a single source, instead of airing individual lasers, and encode information on each carrier, achieving a new data record in a very energy efficient way.

“The ORC’s main contribution to the work was in the generation of the optical comb source, one of the key components in the experiment. The comb source used a pulse train from a mode-locked laser and we were responsible for its spectral broadening, which we achieved in a highly nonlinear fibre. This provided a successful way to generate a large number of optical carriers with a highly stable frequency spacing.”

The lead author of the paper, Dr David Hillerkuss, formerly of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and now at the Institute of Electromagnetic Fields (IEF) Zurich, says, “I feel honoured that our contribution has received the Charles Kao award. The experiments leading to this publication would not have been possible without the long and fruitful collaboration with the Optoelectronics Research Centre and I am looking forward to continuing our joint work.”

This award is in honour of Charles Kao, known as the father of fibre optics, who was a pioneer in the development and use of fibre optics in telecommunications. Kao was jointly awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics for achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibres for optical communication.

In winning the award, the paper was judged to have successfully opened new lines of research, envisioned bold approaches to optical communication and networking, formulated new problems to solve, and essentially enlarged the field of optical communications and networking.

Francesca says, “To be presented with the Charles Kao Award is a great accolade. It's been a highly successful collaboration resulting in this award that credits our joint work and I am proud that our input has been recognised in this way.”

If you are interested in collaborating with the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton, please contact Dr Francesca Parmigiani, Tel 023 8059 3141, email

Find out more about the Charles Kao Award.