Not a pretty picture

Mar 1st, 2001
Holton Mug

Components of WDM systems are not normally photogenic. Industrial photographers try all sorts of tricks to add a human element, energy, or color to dull-looking stuff that is usually in the form of a small metal box or a length of fiber. Worse yet, the optical signal sent down the fiber—the very media of the bandwidth revolution—is infrared, and so there's nothing to see.

When I learned that we had an article with a photograph of the original erbium-doped fiber amplifier (EDFA), I got excited. "Put it on the cover," I urged. I was sure the art department could perform its usual magic to make this image of the 1987 device that launched WDM technology somehow attractive. In response I got only a pained smile, along with the ultimate rebuff, "It's too ugly."

Instead the photo appears within the article, and it is quite dull by comparison to the other artistic photos made available by Southampton Photonics. The photos illustrate an interview with David Payne, chairman of the company and leader of the team at the University of Southampton that invented the first EDFA. The subjects that Payne discusses are far from dull, however, and naturally focus on amplifiers, including several new breeds such as the semiconductor optical amplifier and waveguide amplifier.

Filling in the picture a bit, Mohammed Islam and Mark Nietubyc from Xtera explore amplification technologies that can expand the available bandwidth by best exploiting the S-band transmission window. Then Stéphane Bourgeois at ITF Optical Technologies looks at the EDFA and how it needs new power-handling and low-loss components to support advanced WDM systems. Martin Guy and François Trépanier at TeraXion expand further on this idea by describing the virtues of gain-flattening fiber Bragg gratings in EDFAs.

The remaining articles span the coverage area that WDM Solutions has staked out: focusing on components and subsystems to help engineers, designers, and engineering managers meet the challenges of designing WDM systems. The articles range from a tutorial on the nonlinear optical crystals used in modulators and other high-speed devices, to the inner workings of MEMS all-optical switches.

Although we cover many facets of WDM technology, I'm pleased we were able to dwell so much on optical amplifiers. It's fitting that a component as important to the industry should be the "guest of honor" at a show as important as the Optical Fiber Communications Conference (March 17-22). The optical amplifier itself may never grace the cover of our magazine, but it will long be the star of the show in this industry.

See you in Anaheim.

W. Conard Holton
Associate Publisher/Editor in Chief
cholton@pennwell.com

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