Most of us are familiar with the copper wires connected to many of our electrical appliances at home. These wires transmit data and electrons, which in turn ‘power’ these goods. Nowadays, we are increasingly seeing the data portion of the copper wiring being replaced with fibre optics.
Fibre optics transmits photons, which travel at over 10 times the speed of an electron and carry more information.
Australians are probably familiar with the term fibreoptics as it is often associated with the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) across Australia. This is another example of how photons are being applied in every day technology in our homes.
The 19th century industrial revolution saw a shift towards electricity and electrons as a means of powering society and we, in the 21st century, are now witnessing a shift to light and photons with Photonics Scientists and Engineers across the globe going one step further, seeking to answer questions around whether fibre optics can be used to deliver electricity.
Photonics is the science and technology of light particles.
Photons exist all around us. They travel as waves, each with their own energy level. These waves are usually captured using optical components and directed towards the task they are to perform.
Light, working in conjunction with detectors and sensors, has a hugely diverse range of applications; from consumer electronics (such as mobile phones and smart TVs) and telecoms to manufacturing, medical devices, defence and security.
It is a relatively young field of science having first appeared around 1960 when the laser was invented. It incorporates the specialties of optical fibres, lasers, optics, electro-optics and more.
We have Australia’s largest and most advanced optical manufacturing capability.
BAE Systems has been involved in the design, engineering and manufacturing of precision optical systems for more than 25 years.
Along with a number of talented Australian nationals, we have a diverse team of people from across the globe, including Singapore, USA, Europe and the UK.
We manufacture and test optical components and systems with accuracies down to nanometres and machinery that works in picometres, the size of atoms, using Laser Interferometry.
We also have the only commercial Diamond Turning machine in Australia – this is a very complex capability that allows us to manufacture complex aspheric optical surfaces which allow different wavelengths of light to be delivered in a highly controlled environment.
This manufacturing technology was used in the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners in 2010 from a 2,300 foot deep mine.
The laser scanning system that was used to help the rescue team understand the exact location of the miners featured optical parts manufactured in our specialist facility here in Australia.
Our Photonics group has been involved in the design, engineering and manufacturing of precision optical systems for more than 25 years, and when considering how young this field of science is our experience really is providing an essential edge.
Often it is the application of existing science in a different way that expands its use. This changes the way we do things and often in dramatic ways.
Following the recent publication of the South Australian Government’s paper, ‘Lighting the Way’, outlining the industry’s future growth trajectory, we are looking forward to working closely with them to continue to enhance Australia’s capabilities in the field. This is what inspires many of our scientists and engineers to passionately apply their skills and knowledge.