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Professor David Payne is the Director of the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC). In 1987, he led the research group which, in a major breakthrough, invented the world’s first Erbium-Doped Fibre Amplifier (EDFA) which overcame the problem of signal fading during data transmission over large distances.

Today our everyday lives are connected by the optical fibre technologies developed at the University of Southampton.  Global fibre optic networks connect up the internet, carry telecommunications traffic around the world and deliver media to our homes.

The ORC was established in 1989, with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and is now a world-leading centre for photonics, optical telecommunication and high-power lasers. The centre has licensed over 30 key patents, and regularly collaborates with industrial giants, such as Boeing, Cisco, Sharp and BAE Systems.

In 2010, the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Photonics was established at the University of Southampton under the leadership of Prof Payne.

The fibre laser revolution

Fibre lasers, also developed by Prof Payne and his team, have transformed the way things are made, repaired and destroyed, worldwide. Small size, maintenance-free operation, thermal and electrical eficiency, and outstanding beam quality have made the fibre laser a huge success.

Prof David Richardson, Deputy Director at the ORC, said: “Fibre lasers can be used to cut inch-thick steel, to weld your car during manufacture, perform delicate eye surgery, or even mark the dates on fruit.”

A cluster of stars

In the Southampton area alone the formation of a photonics cluster of ten start up companies has generated revenues in excess of £100m and created over 500 jobs

A shining light

In 2008, Prof Payne was awarded the Marconi Society Prize and Fellowship for his work at the ORC, joining a list of previous winners including world wide web creator, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page.