I remember first arriving at the Tyndall National
Institute in Cork when the SwIFT (optical Switch combining Integrated photonics and Fluidics Technologies) project was underway.
There was a sense of excitement in the air and the
typical grey Irish drizzle didn’t dampen our spirits one bit. Deep down all of us were hoping we might have
a chance to contribute to history in the making.
And we were right.
As our group huddled together in the laboratory of the
Photonics Packaging Group, we stood in awe at the magnified image of a
microfluidic cell. Before we could blink
our eyes, we witnessed it moving to an adjacent location after one of the
droplets was activated.
That’s when the magic happened. The liquid driven switching mechanism in a
photonic chip could change an optical signal, proving our research was no
longer just a theory – the hard work had paid off. Our consortium had uncovered a tiny droplet
which could potentially disrupt the future of data communications and telecoms.
A blueprint for the telecommunications industry
Our society is becoming more and more used to
technology at our fingertips. We can
easily access thousands of films on Netflix or destroy rebellious robots in Robo Recall, a virtual
reality game. We’ve become accustomated
to video conferencing on Skype, saving files on One Drive and checking messages
on smart watches. The list goes on and
As this bandwidth consumption pushes us towards fibre
optics, network operators must manage high fibre densities. Ultimately, the switching solution developed
by SwIFT has given the industry a blueprint to alter the network in an
automated way, using software. People
could spend less time conducting manual tasks and space could be saved in the
vision for Europe and the world
way that science works is fundamentally changing and an equally important
transformation is taking place in how companies and socieities innovate, according
to the European Union
(EU). The advent of digital technologies
is making science and innovation more open, collaborative and global.
The EU’s 7th Framework Programme
for Information and Communications Technology ICT (FP7) made open innovation
and collaboration amongst the brightest in the industry
possible thanks to funding and visionary thinking.
IMEC’s silicon photonics expertise coupled with
Technical University of Ilmenau and Bartels Mikrotechnik in-depth knowledge were
key ingredients in uncovering the significance of that tiny droplet.
I’ve been privileged to be part of this journey with the
SwIFT consortium, which was created to reduce operational expenses
associated with installing, provisioning and maintaining of the embedded fibre
plant and optical connections in today’s competitive carrier landscape.
Our discovery is only the first step. The combined expertise of the consortium
members could potentially help us take a leap into the future and commercialise
technology which once considered exclusively as a technology for transceivers.
Check out the video for more on how now meets next.