[ASC-media] Media Release: Fantastic Plastic Fibre Optics Awarded Australasian Science Prize

Australasian Science science at control.com.au
Mon Nov 7 01:20:14 EST 2005

EMBARGO: Noon, Monday 7 November 2005

Australasian Science Prize for Fantastic Plastic Fibre Optics
Australian research that is set to revolutionise fibre optics with global
applications has earned a team from the University of Sydney the
Australasian Science Prize for 2005. The Prize is being announced and
presented on Monday 7 November to Alexander Argyros, Dr Martijn van
Eijkelenborg and Dr Maryanne Large.
The Australasian Science Prize was established in 2000 by the region's
pioneering monthly science magazine to reward outstanding research by
individuals or small groups. Applicants are nominated and refereed by
leading scientists on research published in peer-reviewed journals,
including in the preceding 12 months. Criteria include originality, depth of
impact and evidence of effective communication. Previous winners are listed
The team in the University's Optical Fibre Technology Centre (OFTC) has
succeeded where other teams have so far failed, finding a way to make
optical fibres from polymers (plastics) that can perform competitively with
silica fibres while being far easier and cheaper to manufacture.
Optical fibres are a multi-billion dollar industry, having played a key part
in the information technology revolution. However, glass fibres are
expensive, fragile and not very flexible, limiting their applications.
Polymer fibres, on the other hand, are cheap to produce, tough and more
flexible ­ but polymers are not as transparent as glass, and attempts to
solve this problem have produced polymers whose greater expense largely
counteracted any advantages gained.
However, Argyros, van Eijkelenborg and Large have avoided the transparency
problem by using a microstructured pattern around an air core. A pattern of
concentric rings around the core reflects light of particular frequencies
back, so it cannot escape the core. As the light travels through air rather
than the polymer, the transparency of the polymer is not an issue.
Microstructured optical fibres for single-polarisation air-guidance, Alex
Argyros, Nader Issa, Ian Bassett, Martijn A. van Eijkelenborg, Optics
Letters 29 (1), 2004.
Analysis of ring-structured Bragg fibres for single TE mode guidance, A.
Argyros, I. Bassett, M.A. van Eijkelenborg, M.C.J. Large, Opt. Express 12
(12), 2004.
Hollow core microstructured polymer optical fiber, Alexander Argyros,
Martijn A. van Eijkelenborg, Maryanne C.J. Large, Ian M. Bassett, Optics
Letters, 2005 in press.
1.30 pm, Optical Fibre Technology Centre, Suite 206 National Innovation
Centre (immediately above Santos Café), Australian Technology Park,
Eveleigh, adjacent to Redfern Station. Car entrance via Garden St to car
park (collect ticket from boom gate; pay at machines before exit).
The University's Dean for Graduate Studies, Professor Masud Behnia will be
host and the magazine's Editor and Publisher, Guy Nolch, will present the
Prize. Director of the OFTC, Professor Simon Fleming will speak on the
significance of the research. Reporters are welcome.
The researchers' laboratory is adjacent and they will be available for
interview after the presentation from about 2.30 pm. If, to meet deadlines,
an interview is required before the ceremony, please call Linda Shboul,
Administration Manager of the Optical Fibre Technology Centre, on (02) 9351
1931. (Interviews must conclude before 1.15 pm.)
Please credit AUSTRALASIAN SCIENCE MAGAZINE as the source of this story.
Dr Tim Birks of the University of Bath in the UK pioneered the use of
microstrutured silica fibres and is closely familiar with the Sydney group's
work: "Although capable of very high performance, silica is not an easy
material to work with as it has to be heated to about 2000°C to be
processed. The equipment needed is very expensive. Other types of glass have
also been tried, but these are even more difficult to process.
"The key contribution of the OFTC team has been to make such fibres out of
polymers. They pioneered this approach, and despite rising interest in other
places they have more than maintained their world lead."
Dr Birks may be reached via email: pystab at bath.ac.uk.
Alex Argyros is in the final stages of his PhD at the OFTC which he began in
2001 after winning the University Medal for Physics. Phones (02) 9351 1990
(w); (0403) 300 157 (m). His fellow winners are his supervisors.
Dr Martijn van Eijkelenborg studied at the University of Leiden in the
Netherlands before a postdoctoral fellowship in Imperial College, London. He
joined the OFTC in 1999, beginning work on microstructured fibres in silica
before switching to polymers in 2000. Phone (02) 9351 1941 (w).
Dr Maryanne Large completed her BSc at the University of Sydney before a PhD
at Trinity College, Dublin. She joined the OFTC in 2000. Before working on
optical fibres, she had experience in the optical and physical properties of
polymers and also in optical microstructures, which she had studied in the
context of structural colour in animals. Phone: (02) 9351 1923 (w).
Guy Nolch (Editor) on (03) 9500 0015 or, on Monday, (0417) 324 394; Dr Peter
Pockley (Senior Correspondent) on (02) 9660 6363. A full article from the
magazine's November/December issue can be faxed under embargo.
For JPEG files of the colourful results, call Guy Nolch, Peter Pockley or
Linda Shboul.

2004: Prof Levon Khachigian (UNSW): DNA drugs with therapeutic potential in
treating cancers.
2003: Prof Mark Rowe (UNSW): How sensations are processed and transmitted in
the brains of mammals.
2002: Dr Mark Hindell (University of Tasmania): Research on Southern
elephant seals and other marine predators.
2001: Prof Mandyam Srinivasan, Dr Shaowu Zhang & Dr Javaan Chahl (Australian
National University): Behaviour and intelligence of bees and extending this
to artificial intelligence.
2000: Dr Charlie Veron & Dr Mary Stafford-Smith (Australian Institute of
Marine Science): Coral reef research and publication.

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