ARC Federation Fellows

Professor Ben Eggleton

Professor Ben Eggleton

While access to vast amounts of online information is infinitely faster than could have been imagined even a decade ago, demand continues to outstrip download speed.

The next generation of optical telecommunications networks promises greatly increased bandwidth, but it also requires novel components for transmission and amplification.

Ben Eggleton aims to keep Australia at the cutting edge of telecommunications through his research into photonics. So far, photonics has enabled transport and transmission of vast quantities of information through the invention of laser, optical fibres and optical amplification. The next revolution will happen when photonics can be used for signal processing – to remove electronics signal processing. This is the holy grail of photonics and optical communications research.

Appointed an Australian Federation Fellow in 2001, two years later Professor Eggleton established the ARC Centre for Excellence for Ultrahigh-bandwidth devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) after achieving internationally acclaimed advances in his field.

Winner of the Prime Minister’s McIntosh Award for Physical Scientist of the Year in 2004, Professor Eggleton completed a PhD in physics at Sydney in 1996 after attaining honours in physics in his undergraduate degree. He established his reputation at Lucent Technologies, where he was Director of Research at Bell Laboratories, leading a team that developed a solution to dispersion compensation at very high data speed of 40Gb/s (most internet access runs at 512kbit/s).

With interests including nonlinear optics, photonic bandgap structures, tunable optical fibre devices and microfluidics, Professor Eggleton’s vision is to push fibre-optic communications from 40 to more than 160Gb/s, beyond the capacity of existing optical/electronic routers by taking a fresh look at photonic devices.

CUDOS aims to dispense with electronics by designing and building linear and non-linear all-optical signal processing devices, which can be miniaturized onto a photonic chip. “The challenge is formidable,” the professor says. “Ultimately we are pursuing a device that would remove the need to convert light to electronic signals and back, be the size of a thumbnail, cost a fraction of a router, and consume very little power.”

Professor Eggleton is to be awarded the 2007 Pawsey Medal from the Australian Academy of Sciences. His group has recently reported exciting breakthroughs in major journals and he is a regular speaker at international conferences.