Photonics Briefings Series

UK-POF Consortium - A Step Closer
Dr. Demetri Kalymnios
London Metropolitan University

As For some years now, the general impression has been that there is not a significant activity or interest in Plastic Optical Fibres (POF) in the UK. This impression has been formed mainly because participation from the UK in the well-established annual international POF conferences has been limited to no more that 2 or 3 university research groups, London Metropolitan University (previously University of North London) being the most faithful and regular in attendance. This situation may well change soon as interest in POF in the UK may run a lot deeper and wider than hitherto assumed. This picture is emerging from a recent £4.5m national research programme bid, in which more than 20 mainly university research groups were participating. Their proposal was entitled ‘Polymer based wave-guiding for medical, control, communication and environmental applications’. The primary aim of this POF consortium is to explore and use the considerable advantages and benefits of opto-electronics systems and components that are made possible by existing and new polymer materials. The range of applications suggested in the above proposal title is clearly very diverse. It typically includes bioinformation, cell biosensing, drug monitoring, pollution monitoring, water quality monitoring, high-voltage power systems measurement, interference-free power delivery, communication components and systems, control and many others.

It is not unusual that, in spite of the evident richness and diversity of a proposal, both in basic research and in the likely resulting applications, a proposal is not successful. The competition for research money, in the UK at least, has always been fierce and this situation is not likely to improve in the near future. Nonetheless, it is re-assuring that the participants of the above proposal believe that a big step towards forming a UK–POF Consortium has already been taken, quite successfully. The various groups that have been brought together, albeit through an unsuccessful bid, are now identifiable and their research activities and interests are known. New and perhaps more targeted research teams and proposals may now result and which will persist till success.

Efforts for financial support to establish the UK-POF Consortium with visible activities through meetings, seminars, laboratory exchange visits and similar, have not been abandoned. Currently, the same UK-POF Consortium above, participates in an even wider European effort to set up a pan European Polymer Optical Fibre/Technology Network, through a grant of the European Science Foundation (ESF). A first hurdle in the application process seems to have been overcome in that, a final application for the establishment of this network has been encouraged. This will be submitted very soon. It is very likely that for some of the network activities research groups from outside Europe, the East or the West, might be invited to participate.

For more information about the UK-POF Consortium: