The researcher behind a new nanophotonic chip that could significantly boost internet speeds and beat the “big data crunch” has won a prestigious Victoria Fellowship.
RMIT’s Dr Haoran Ren will use the fellowship awarded overnight by the Victorian Government to undertake a three-month study mission to France.
There he will work in a world-class laboratory to further develop his chip, which is capable of significantly increasing the bandwidth of optical communications – the use of light to carry information.
The internet works by sending pulses of light through optical fibres, while Ren’s nanophotonic chip unlocks light channels previously unavailable – light that twists and spins on an axis, rather than just travelling in a straight line.
This light processing takes place on the chip, which is the secret to superfast internet. The process also dramatically increases the potential bandwidth of internet-connected devices.
Ren said his nanophotonic chip would transform a technology that was already transforming our lives, societies and economies.
“In the big data era, high-capacity networks are underpinning infrastructure that has an enormous impact on every sector of our lives. Optical technology offers an environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient solution for managing big data,” said Ren.
“However, present-day optical communication systems are heading towards a 'capacity crunch' as they fail to meet the ever-increasing amount of big data.
“The completion of this project will significantly improve the bandwidth of optical communication systems powered by multiplexing technology for the big data industry.”
Each year the Victorian Government award 12 fellowships to early career researchers -- six in life sciences and six for the physical sciences. Each fellow receives $18,000 to fund a short-term study trip.
Ren said that the Victoria Fellowship would help advance an important area of research that is of high interest to industry and broader society. But he said the academic opportunities are just as exciting.
“I am honoured to win this Victoria Fellowship,” said Ren. "The benefits and experience resulting from the research project will provide me with an excellent foundation to lead an independent research program in academia in the future.”
Dr Ren said that his research into twisted light could also help shine a light on a very dark part of space.
“In addition to improving technology in optical communications, this research could potentially provide a viable approach to measuring the twist and spin carried in gravitational waves, which might provide new insights in our understanding of the evolution of black holes and the universe,” Ren said.
Story: James Giggacher