Making light work

Australian and French researchers are teaming up to use photonics—the quantum technology of light—to build better environmental sensors and high-speed data transmitters, and enable sharper MRI scans.

The ALPhFA initiative (Associated Laboratory for Photonics between France and Australia) is a collaborative network between nine leading photonics labs: at CNRS joint research units INL-Lyon, C2N-Paris, Fresnel-Marseille, and FEMTO-ST-Besançon in France; and at Macquarie University, the Australian National University, RMIT University, The University of Sydney, and Swinburne University in Australia.

The collaboration will focus on three areas of research. Mid-infrared photonics offers ways of sensing gases in the atmosphere and in the environment, while functional silicon photonics is used for high-speed communications, data transfers and bio sensing, and metamaterials can drastically improve conventional MRI clinical imaging.

Distinguished Professor Arnan Mitchell, Director of the MicroNano Research Facility at RMIT, heads up the Australian side of the project, while the French effort is run by CNRS researcher Dr Christian Grillet of the Ecole Centrale de Lyon and INL.

“Our goal is to build a substantial, ongoing engagement between French and Australian photonics researchers,” Arnan says.

In December 2018, Arnan hosted around 50 researchers in Melbourne at the first annual ALPhFA workshop.

RMIT and Ecole Centrale de Lyon will also jointly teach PhD students, who will work between France and Australia with industry partners including the French multinationals STMicroelectronics, one of the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturers, and Thales Group, who make electronics for defence and aerospace.

Banner image: The MicroNano Research Facility at RMIT plays a key role in the ALPhFA collaboration. Credit: RMIT