ERC award success for early career researcher

Professor Francesco Poletti from the Photonics Hyperhighway Programme at Southampton's Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) has won an ERC Award from the EU of €2.75M over 5 years for his ‘LightPipe’ project.

The ERC Consolidator Grant has been awarded to support Francesco’s proposal to develop revolutionary new optical fibres. These grants are designed to support researchers at the stage where they are consolidating their own independent research team and programme. Being granted an ERC while still holding an equally prestigious fellowship from the UK Royal Society is a stunning achievement for someone still in the early stages of his career.

Francesco explains why the award will help his ‘LightPipe’ project advance a new technological step. “I am incredibly pleased to be awarded such a prestigious grant. The funding will help my research find transformative ways of increasing the information capacity and power delivery capability of optical fibres. This project aims to develop radically new optical fibres that can keep up with the relentless growth in global data traffic and in laser output power, which roughly doubles every two years.

“In many applications fibres are already being operated very close to fundamental physical limits of the glass that forms their core, limiting data capacity or optical intensity that can be transmitted through them. The LightPipe project will address these global challenges by replacing the glass core with an air filled one, purposely surrounded by thin glass membranes to enhance the light guidance properties and form what is arguably the ‘ultimate’ hollow core optical fibre.”

The Lightpipe project targets an increase in data capacity and power handling some 10 times that achieved by current state-of-the-art technology, and a reduction in transmission loss by a factor of five. The outcomes of this project have the potential to revolutionise telecommunications 45 years after the development of ultra-low loss glass optical fibres, producing a step-change in many industrial and scientific high power laser delivery applications.

“This award is the recognition of the sustained visionary and pioneering work that since the early 1970s is being produced at the Optoelectronics Research Centre’s laboratories in the field of optical fibre technology”, Francesco adds.

“I am extremely grateful to the many colleagues, mentors and external collaborators for their invaluable support so far, and I am looking forward to working with them all on the demonstration of this ground-braking new technology.”

Professor Dave Richardson, PHH Co-Investigator and Deputy Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre said, “Congratulations to Francesco. He has proven to be a worthy recipient of the ERC Consolidator Grant, as he takes his place among the next generation of research leaders in Europe.”

If you are interested in collaborating with the Photonics Hyperhighway team at the ORC please contact Dr Francesco Poletti, email