Professor William Gillin, Director of the Materials Research Institute - shortlisted for “Bruce Dickinson Entrepreneur of the Year” award for his work in Optical communication

15 January 2018

Professor William Gillin
Professor William Gillin
William Gillin, Director of the Materials Research Institute and Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy has been shortlisted for the “Bruce Dickinson Entrepreneur of the Year” award at Queen Mary University of London for his work in Optical communication.

Optical communication is the future of high speed data networks. Although virtually all long distance data transfer is sent at the speed of light down optical fibres, the technology required to do this is too expensive for shorter distance links. As such datacentres, which currently consume about 3% of the world's electricity generation and are responsible for around 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions, are forced to rely on electrical connections for short range data transfer, an energy intensive process that also creates a bottleneck in data transfer.

Professor Gillin’s spin out company Chromosol is developing new technologies based on the use of two novel chemical compounds, one a ligand and one a chromophore (a light absorbing molecule) which will act together to provide an ultra-efficient amplification system. The aim is to develop a new range of laser materials derived from this novel chemistry which can be deposited directly onto silicon chips in order to allow the integration of lasers. This will both overcome the bottleneck in data communications and facilitate ultra-high speed communications right down to the chip level - a fundamental aim of those in the silicon photonics field which is seen as the underpinning technology for next generation computing.

The underlying physical principles and chemical properties are understood, having been published previously in Nature. The initial research behind Chromosol was performed during Dr Huanqing Ye’s PhD under the supervision of Professor Gillin. Since the publication of the Nature paper based on this research, Professor Gillin has been instrumental in ensuring that momentum on this project has not been lost. He has been the main driving force in securing the required investment for Chromosol to make progress, including securing investment and support from IP Group, a developer of intellectual property-based businesses, which will work closely with QMUL throughout the development with the provision of both commercial expertise and financing.

These efforts have borne fruit this year as Chromosol turns to the future to produce, test and characterise these new and novel laser materials and use them to fabricate devices demonstrating the commercial viability of the approach.