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University to shape telecommunications of tomorrow

The University of St Andrews’ reputation as a global centre of excellence in laser systems has been cemented with the announcement of a £10.5 million grant, the largest award in the University’s history.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has awarded the Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration (IRC) grant to the School of Physics and Astronomy – the only grant of its kind awarded in Scotland.

Starting in June, the research project “Ultrafast Photonics for Datacomms Above Terabit Speeds” (UPDATES) will have important implications for the future of telecommunications. The project will be carried out in collaboration with five partner Universities – Bristol, Imperial College, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt and Sheffield – and seven major industrial partners – Agilent (formerly Hewlett-Packard), Marconi, Nortel Networks, JDS- Uniphase, Kymata, Sharp and Vitesse.

Head of School Professor Alan Miller, who will be one of the IRC Managers said, “The demands on the world’s telecommunications systems are rapidly increasing, partly due to a huge expansion in internet traffic. With the continual growth in the use of the internet, delays in downloading data, images and videos can only worsen and, ultimately, we may find that existing technologies will no longer be able to support this growth, particularly with the rapid expansion of e-commerce. The IRC will look at new devices that may replace some of the bottlenecks in such systems, speeding up the traffic. The long- term goal is to undertake a revolutionary science-to- technology programme in modern opto-electronics so that the next generation of ultra-high speed communications can be developed”.

The six-year grant will support research work in the important field of optical information technology, which offers major advantages over conventional electronics-based approaches. The team will focus on schemes which take advantage of digital optics.

Professor Wilson Sibbett, IRC Director, believes the funding reinforces the University’s reputation as a worldwide centre of excellence. Professor Sibbett said, “The IRC will be centred around the exploitation of specialist laser systems which have been pioneered and developed by laser physicists at St Andrews. It will also build upon leading research in semi-conductor and polymer materials being carried out in the Schools of Physics and Chemistry. The University’s expertise in these research fields has undoubtedly been crucial in attracting this funding. Indeed, this newly awarded IRC at St Andrews is one of just three in the UK to be fully funded by the EPSRC and the only one in Scotland”.

Other key staff members will include Professor Neville Richardson (School of Chemistry) and Professors Thomas Krauss and Ifor Samuel who are joining the School of Physics and Astronomy later this year.

The research will be carried out within state-of-the-art laboratories in the School of Physics and Astronomy.  A designated area will be developed for the IRC to house additional laboratories, administration space and a conference suite.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS:- You are invited to send a reporter/photographer to the School of Physics and Astronomy, North Haugh, St Andrews at 10.30am on Friday 7 April 2000. Please meet Claire Grainger at the reception area before going to the labs where Professors Miller and Sibbett will be available for interviews/photographs.

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07887 650072 or email cg24@st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: EPSRC/standrews/chg/5april2000

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