Astrophotonics at the University of Sydney


Research into astrophotonics at the University of Sydney is at the forefront of developing new materials and devices for astronomical instrumentation around the world. The group is led by Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn and forms a major part of the Consortium for Australian Astrophotonics (CAA) with the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO). The group collaborates with other research groups in Australia (including The Institute of Photonics and Optical Science (IPOS), the Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) and Macquarie University Astrophotonics and Astronomical Instrumentation ) and around the World (including Durham University, the Université Joseph Fourier and the University of Potsdam), as well as a range of international companies.

What is Astrophotonics?

Astronomy/Astrophysics is dedicated to the study of the universe - using observational, theoretical and computational techniques to understand the physical properties, origin, history and fate of celestial objects and the universe itself.

Photonics is the use of materials to manipulate light, involving the emission, transmission, processing and detection of light. The telecommunication and information technology revolution of recent decades is a direct result of advances in optics that have allowed higher information bandwidths to be transmitted over longer distances. This in turn has ushered in the Information Age.

Astrophotonics is where these areas meet. Astrophotonics is the use of photonic techniques and devices to manipulate our collection and processing of light for the purpose of improving our ability to probe and hence understand the universe. It has many applications and new technologies are constantly being developed.

The rate of advance in astrophotonics in the last decade have been astonishing, with clear impact on astronomical instruments. The next 10 years will see the development of concepts that are currently in their infancy such as space photonics, integration of photonic spectrographs into large high resolution wide bandwidth replicated spectrographs, arrayed waveguides acting as dispersers but with a much smaller footprint than classical dispersive elements (diffraction gratings), further development of OH suppression into a commonplace major instrument, fibre scramblers to stabilise the illumination from a fibre for precise radial velocity work (e.g. exoplanet detection), frequency combs, optical circulators, ring resonator filters, forked gratings, sub-lambda gratings, spatial light modulators, and more.

The biggest advances over the next decade and beyond will be driven by the need for smaller instrument solutions for the next generation of extremely large telescopes. And while the astronomical applications are many and varied, many of the devices developed through astrophotonics have applications in the wider world, in applications ranging from communications to medicine.

Latest Astrophotonics News - See the SIfA News page.