OPTICON FP7 (2013-2016) WP3 - Astrophotonics

WP leader: Roger Haynes (AIP)

The Astrophotonics work package will build on the massive worldwide investment in Photonic technologies for telecom, biomedical and sensing applications to develop complementary enabling photonic technologies for astronomy. The long-term aim is to develop key components of a new Photonic Spectroscopic System based on optical fibre and integrated photonic technologies. By integrating optical fibres and photonic dispersers into a single package, many of the problems imposed by the sheer size of the E-ELT might be mitigated. The difficulty of providing a stable optical interface between telescope and instrument will be addressed to deploy systems with large multiplex gain. This will benefit observations that require very large statistical samples of objects, such as observational cosmology, which is currently dominated by the need to determine the equation of state of the universe through the study of very large samples of galaxies to very faint limits.

We will concentrate on two main components of the Photonic Spectroscopic System (PSS): (i) the Photonic OH-Suppression Filter and (ii) Photonic Coupler. The first technology is a low-cost, compact, robust and high efficient photonics filter for OH-Suppression that could improve the sensitivity of ground-based near infrared observations by factors up to >30. The second technology investigates ultrafast laser inscription (ULI) techniques to transform the 2D waveguide structure of a multicore optical fibre used in the photonic OH-Suppression filter into the 1-D linear array required to couple light into the spectrograph. When operated in conjunction with conventional instrumentation each device could provide great benefits to astronomy in their own right. However, a combination of the OH-Suppression filter and coupler combined with the integrated photonic spectrograph technology could completely revolutionise spectroscopic instrumentation and capabilities.

The intrinsically diffraction-limited nature of the photonic principles on which the technologies are based are complementary to the Adaptive Optics and Interferometry techniques also addressed by OPTICON. WP3 will leverage from the existing regional programmes already pioneering the research within the Astrophotonica Europa partnership, in particular those led by AIP, Durham University, AAO, University of Sydney, University of Bath and Heriot Watt University.

Visit the WP3 website here