Communicating with light

Clifford Paterson Lecture by Professor Polina Bayvel FREng

Polina Bayvel FREng is Professor of Optical Communications and Networks, and Head of the Optical Networks Group at University College London.

Some of the greatest scientific and technological successes of the past 50 years are in the area of communications.

Most of the data we generate and receive (whether emails, tweets, videos or mobile calls) are now carried by optical fibres, which use light to transmit vast quantities of information over trans-oceanic distances.

The use of hundreds of wavelengths (colours of light) over a single fibre, as well as other properties of light: its amplitude, phase and polarisation, have led to increases of many orders of magnitude in the optical information carrying capacity. This sparked the communication revolution and the growth of the Internet, and created an illusion of infinite capacity being available.

But as the amounts of data increase, is there a limit to the capacity of an optical fibre communication channel?

Professor Bayvel described the challenges and limits of communicating with light, and the advances in optical and digital signal processing to maximise optical network capacity.

Polina Bayvel FREng is Professor of Optical Communications and Networks, and Head of the Optical Networks Group (ONG) at University College London.

Formerly a Royal Society University Research Fellow (1993-2003), her research has focused on the design of optical networks, high-speed optical fibre transmission and the study and mitigation of optical fibre nonlinearities using a variety of signal processing techniques.

She was one of the first to show the feasibility of using the wavelength domain for routing in optical networks, and designed wavelength-selective devices needed for their characterisation and implementation.

ONG, which she founded, was the first academic research group undertaking systems engineering research in optical communication systems and networks, and is now a world-leading research laboratory. She currently leads the UNLOC programme – unlocking the capacity of optical communications, aimed at maximising the capacity of optical networks in the nonlinear regime.

She was awarded the 2014 Clifford Paterson Lecture for her fundamental research in high bandwidth digital communications and nonlinear optics.

The Clifford Paterson Lecture is awarded biennially (in odd years) on any aspect of engineering. It is aimed at scientists working in modern and popular fields such as new media technologies and consumer electronics.

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Communicating with light 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK

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