Professor Sir David Payne of the University of Southampton is the eighth recipient of the Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis awarded by the German foundation Berthold Leibinger Stiftung. The jury of renowned international experts and industry leaders recognized Sir David’s work on the erbium-doped fiber amplifier (EDFA) and his pioneering research in fiber optics technology. The prize is awarded every other year and comes with an endowment of 50,000 euros. It honors a single individual for exceptional research work in the field of laser technology. Originally due in 2020, the award ceremony has been rescheduled to take place on September 24, 2021.
Since the 1970s Sir David’s work spans many diverse areas of photonics, from telecommunications and optical sensors to nano photonics and optical materials. With his colleagues at the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Center he has made many of the key technical achievements in almost every area of optical fiber technologies and his work has had a direct impact on worldwide telecommunications, as well as nearly all fields of optical R&D. He is particularly noted for work on the erbium-doped fiber amplifier in telecommunications and high-power fiber lasers in material processing.
The common ground for these two tremendously important and successful industrial devices is the low-density rare-earth doping of silica fibers necessary for efficient generation and amplification of light inside a fiber. The publication by the Southampton group led by Sir David on low-loss erbium-doped optical fibers in 1985 sparked a revolution that led to the first employment of EDFA devices in an undersee trans-pacific cable within less than ten years and the advent of kilowatt fiber lasers in the late 2000s.
No Global Internet Without the EDFA
In the early days of fiber-optic network deployment the common benchmark for their capacity was the number of phone calls carried on a single fiber with numbers ranging high in the hundreds of thousands. The internet and digitization of communications changed the notation to gigabits per second - ranging from single digit numbers in the 1990s to six-digit numbers today (>100 Terabit/s). The transmission capacity of optical cables is not only higher than that of copper per se, but it can also be greatly increased by using multiple wavelengths – each being a separate channel – in the same fiber simultaneously, called wavelength multiplexing. These channels can again be multiplied using coherent transmission technology. But for network connections greater than 100 kilometers after which the signal dims, all these techniques rely on the EDFA for signal boosting. In simple terms: EDFAs drastically reduce the cost for bandwidth as they eliminate the need for electrical repeaters and the deployment of additional cables, thus making data connections affordable for today’s data driven world.
The Berthold Leibinger Stiftung is proud to present Professor Sir David Payne with the Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis. This highly esteemed prize also recognizes Sir David’s entrepreneurial spirit in initiating and sparking commercialization by founding a number of start-up companies, as well as his numerous collaborations with well-established tech-companies.
Professor Sir David Payne said, “I note that the Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis is an international award for excellent research on the application or generation of laser light. The Optoelectronics Research Centre that I have the honor to lead shares that exciting mission. I am therefore greatly honored to receive this highly prestigious recognition of my research work and that of the extraordinary colleagues with whom I have had the pleasure of working over the years. This prize is for them too. I will be joining an August cohort of previous Leibinger prize winners that reads like a who’s who of laser pioneers and that makes me very proud.”
Award-Ceremony with Berthold Leibinger Innovationspreis in September 2021
The announcement of the Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis will be followed by the presentation of the finalists for the Berthold Leibinger Innovationspreis. Both prizes will be presented to the prizewinners and finalists at the award ceremony on Friday September 24, 2021.