The University of Southampton

Southampton semiconductor laser pioneer acclaimed with international prize

Published: 2 February 2021
Professor Anne Tropper's research formed the basis of high-power fibre lasers in industrial manufacturing

Professor Anne Tropper has been presented the 2021 SPIE Maiman Laser Award for pioneering contributions during a dynamic research career at the University of Southampton.

The prestigious honour from the international society for optics and photonics recognises the physicist's key advancements in rare-earth doped fibre and optically pumped semiconductor lasers.

Anne is a founding member of the Optoelectronics Research Centre at Southampton, one of the world's leading institutes for photonics research, and served as head of the Quantum, Light and Matter group between 2007 and 2012.

She has been based at the University of Southampton since 1983 and maintains this longstanding connection today as an Emeritus Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy.

Anne says: "I am deeply honoured to receive this prize named after Theodore Maiman, creator of the first working laser. It is a testament to the vision of the individuals in Physics and Astronomy who set up the Laser Physics Group and gave so much support and encouragement to my endeavours.

"My original realisation of lasers constructed not around optical rods but optical fibres, embodying a paradigm shift that transformed every aspect of the physics and engineering of these light sources. As a result, we have lasers and amplifiers that are sturdy, energy-efficient, broad-band and spectrally versatile, with transformative impact in technologies ranging from data communications to surgery to industrial production."

The Southampton professor's influence in optical physics over the past 40 years has touched the work of many groups in fields that include fibre lasers and amplifiers, upconversion lasers, spin dynamics in semiconductors, and ultrafast semiconductor laser physics.

She was the first to demonstrate the ytterbium silica fibre laser and highlight the unique potential of this system for efficient high-power operation, a discovery that today forms the basis of the high-power fibre laser market for industrial manufacturing.

New fibre lasers first reported by her group at Southampton include thulium and holmium silica in the mid-infrared, and infrared-pumped visible lasers based on praseodymium-doped fluoride glass.

The SPIE Maiman Laser Award is named in honour of Theodore Maiman, an American physicist and engineer who is widely credited with the invention of the laser. The honour was established in 2020 and recognises sustained contributions to laser source science and technology at the highest levels.

SPIE's 2021 society awards have been announced this month for 21 distinguished recipients whose achievements span a wide range of light-based sciences and key advancements made by these technologies in areas including medicine, astronomy, lithography and optical metrology.

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