Top Singapore University Lights up Photonics Research with US $100 million Institute

The next generation ultra-fast Internet or ground-breaking electronic circuits powered by light instead of electricity could very well be built on research done at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

To establish Singapore as a powerhouse in photonics and optics research, NTU today launched The Photonics Institute, one of the most advanced institutes in the field today.
 
NTU also unveiled Singapore’s first high-tech fibre optic research manufacturing facility today. It is housed at one of the institute’s five research centres.

Nanyang Technological University's new photonics institute one of the most advanced in the world. (LEDinside/Nanyang Technological University)

The national-level Photonics Institute at NTU will focus on research involving light technology such as those found in fibre-optic cables, lasers and consumer products like DVD/Blu-ray devices or remote control devices.
 
NTU is partnering the University of Southampton, UK to set up the new institute. Southampton is home to the Optoelectronics Research Centre, world renowned as the birth place of the ubiquitous fibre-optic Internet now found in most homes.
 
The $80 million Photonics Institute at NTU is funded and supported by industry partners and various national agencies, including A*STAR, DSO National Laboratories, the Economic Development Board Singapore, the Ministry of Education and the National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore.
 
The Guest-of-Honour at the launch ceremony was Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry, who witnessed NTU signing a research partnership agreement with Southampton to formalise the setting up of The Photonics Institute. 
 
NTU President Prof Bertil Andersson said photonics is an enabling technology with applications that span many industry sectors, from communications to manufacturing, and even space technology.
 
“We have already seen examples of how photonic technologies, such as optical fibres networks and lasers, have changed our society through the Internet,” Prof Andersson said. “Together with Southampton, our new institute aims to be become a focal point for photonics research in Singapore and to drive innovations on a global scale.
 
“This joint initiative is an important conduit for the transfer of scientific and technological knowledge, breakthroughs and industrial innovations between Singapore and United Kingdom.”
 
University of Southampton Vice-Chancellor Prof Don Nutbeam said, “Our partnership with NTU is symbolic of Southampton’s strategy for internationalisation - working closely with world class universities to achieve mutual benefits in research, education and enterprise.

“The University Southampton has been at the forefront of research and development in photonics for several decades and continues to be a significant contributor to the growth of the photonics industry in the UK and internationally. This pioneering work on the optical fibres, fibre lasers and amplifiers that power the internet today has been driven by our world-leading researchers such as Professor Sir David Payne and Professor Nicolay Zheludev, both of whom have major roles in our dual-centre with NTU.”
 
The Photonics Institute will comprise five different research centres, all related to the field of photonics and optics:
 
1. Centre for Optical Fibre Technology 
2. Centre for Disruptive Photonic Technologies 
3. LUMINOUS! Centre of Excellence for Semiconductor Lighting and Displays 
4. Centre for Optical & Laser Engineering 
5. OPTIMUS! Photonic Centre of Excellence
 
The Photonics Institute will be headed by three co-directors. They are NTU professors Tjin Swee Chuan and Nikolay Zheludev; and Professor Sir David Payne, the director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre at Southampton.

Professor Nikolay Zheludev, who is also the director for the Centre for Disruptive Photonic Technologies, said the new institute will be a new model which spans both universities in Singapore and the UK, aimed at “developing disruptive ideas in next-generation photonics”.
 
“The Photonics Institute will be a cradle of knowledge and intellectual property, as well as a focal point for developing ground-breaking applications of light-enabled technologies,” he said.
 
The new institute will have a total of 120 scientists and staff from its five research centres, with a combined floor space of 4,000 square meters.
 
Opening of the new Centre for Optical Fibre Technology
 
NTU’s official opening of the institute also marks the launch of its Centre for Optical Fibre Technology, which houses one of the world’s most advanced fibre manufacturing facility. This new research facility gives Singapore the ability to manufacture experimental fibre optic cables for the first time.
 
The centre is set up jointly by NTU and University of Southampton, in partnership with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and DSO National Laboratories.
 
Professor Payne said the new three-storey fibre manufacturing facility was designed with the intention of developing next generation fibre technology.
 
“The new centre will allow us to fabricate various types of optical fibres, such as soft glass, silica and photonic-crystal fibres, as well as special fibres used in biomedical and sensing applications.”
 
NTU Professor Tjin Swee Chuan, Co-Director of The Photonics Institute said COFT has 11 projects already lined up and that “a key mission of the photonics institute is also to provide manpower training in the field of photonics and optics for Singapore”. 
 
Dr Tan Geok Leng, Executive Director, Science and Engineering Research Council, A*STAR said, “Advanced optics and photonics hold the key to ultra-high-speed communications and computing in healthcare, manufacturing, aerospace and other important vertical sectors. By participating in this effort, A*STAR hopes to catalyse progress in these enabling technologies to create new applications, develop new skillsets and power new growth areas.”
 
Dr Goh Joo Thiam, Director, Emerging Systems, DSO National Laboratories, said: “DSO has been collaborating with NTU to further our research in many areas. We are thus pleased to be able to partner NTU in the development of their Photonics Institute that will complement our work in photonics, lasers and optics.”

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