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Bell Labs optical networking pioneers among finalists of the 2008 Millennium Technology Prize


Discoveries were critical enabler of optical networking and modern communications

Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) today announced that a three-person team, including Dr. Randy Giles, Director of Optical Subsystems and Advanced Photonics at Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, and Prof. Emmanuel Desurvire, formerly of Bell Labs, Columbia University, Alcatel and currently Director of the Physics Research Group at Thales Research & Technology was selected as a finalist for the 2008 Millennium Technology Prize. Professor David N. Payne, Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton is the third member of this team.

These scientists are being recognized for their historic contributions to telecommunications resulting from their pioneering research of the Erbium-Doped Fiber Amplifier (EDFA) and its use in fiber optic transmission systems which made possible the high-capacity optical fiber networks that today power the Internet and communications networks around the globe.

Optical fiber transmission systems were first deployed in the mid 1970s and soon afterwards a new technique, wavelength division multiplexing (WDM), promised to dramatically increase the fiber’s data-handling capacity with the simultaneous transmission of multiple signal channels. To unlock the potential of WDM though, breakthrough technology was needed to overcome the inherent signal losses in optical fiber. It was the discovery that erbium, a rare-earth element, possesses unique properties ideally suited to the amplification of light signals in optical fibers that led to the invention of the EDFA for which this team is recognized.

Jeong Kim, President of Bell Labs noted that “this invention by these three prominent scientists was a critical enabler of today’s information highway. It unleashed the potential of numerous other inventions related to optical networking, and gave rise to the mass deployment of capabilities that touch the lives of virtually everyone on the planet.”

The Millennium Prize, funded and run by the government of Finland and Finnish institutions and businesses, was created in 2004 to promote “technological research and innovation that have a positive impact on the quality of life; alleviate fears towards technological change and encourage discussion between technology specialists and societal decision makers.”

Every two years, the external linkMillennium Technology Foundation selects a new winner from top universities and corporations around the world. A total of 99 individuals were nominated for the 2008 Millennium Technology Prize, with candidates being proposed by 88 organizations in 27 countries.

In addition to the Desurvire-Giles-Payne team, three other finalists for the 2008 prize were announced today. The winning individual or team will be announced at an award ceremony in Helsinki, Finland, on June 11 and receive a prize of 800,000 Euros. The award will be personally given by Her Excellency Mrs. Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland, during a Grand Award Ceremony. Each finalist will also receive a prize. This is the world’s largest award for technology innovation.


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