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July 2017

Prof. John Ballato at Politecnico di Torino: Optical Fibers and Beyond

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“You could send me an email when, during your research, you will have doubts if something will work or not. If I reply ‘No, it will not work’, keep going because in my career sometimes I was simply wrong”. Friday, June 30th: the newborn OSA Student Chapter Torino (Italy) is hosting his first Travelling Lecture Grant, Prof. John Ballato. Among other achievements, he is also an OSA Fellow and now he is telling us that sometimes he was wrong. Here’s the specific episode he confessed: it was 2008. There was a project involving the possibility of building optical fibers with silicon core, and he almost refused to work on it because he was very skeptical about it. One day, he was convinced to perform the experiment: on a first attempt, Prof. Ballato and his collaborators discovered that the color of the core become black. It was silicon, as confirmed by electron microscopy. It was the first silicon-core in a silica-clad optical fiber, and the results were immediately published in Optics Express.

Prof. Ballato’s talk continued and it was focused in particular on the processing of optical and optoelectronics fibers through the molten core fabrication method. This technique is particularly interesting for developing the next generation of specialty optical fibers with advanced functionalities. Nevertheless, he gave us very useful advices on research ethics, mentors and career choices. The excellent ability of the speaker and the high interest of the topic stimulated a long and deep discussion, with several questions and contributions from the audience.

The keynote speech held by Prof. Ballato was part of the workshop “Optical Fibers and Beyond”, organized by our Torino OSA Student Chapter. It was followed by two invited talks held by Prof. Daniel Milanese and Prof. Andrea Carena, respectively from the department of Applied Science and Technology and from the Department of Electronics and Telecommunications of Politecnico di Torino. The two talks covered all the topics of optical fibers technology, from the materials’ design and properties, the processing for the production of specialty optical and optoelectronics fibers, and the use of optical fibers in telecommunications, lasers and sensors. This broad topic covered all the expertise of our chapter members and gained the interest of several academics. The coffee break was also an occasion for a more informal discussion about academic life, professional development and research.

The workshop ended with a joint lunch in a local pizza restaurant and a visit to the newborn PhotoNext interdipartimental center, upgrade of the former PhotonLab: a state of the art lab for research in optical telecommunications, optical fibers and optical materials.

The workshop resulted in an exciting and inspiring experience: it allowed discussion of new research ideas, possible new collaborations in a complex and increasingly multidisciplinary environment. Together with all the activities of the Chapter, it was a good occasion for consolidating the network of researchers in optics and photonics in the area of Torino, as well as a profitable exchange of ideas and opinions about the future of optical fibers.

Finally, we would like to thank OSA for financing our grant application and Prof. John Ballato for accepting our invitation. We really hope this will be the first of a long series of events that will help the dissemination of technical knowledge about optics and photonics in our area, as well as increasing the international significance of our young Student Chapter. This lecture will be only the first step towards a more intense activity among the international environment, contributing to the personal growth of each Chapter’s member as highly skilled scientists and researchers. We believe on the impact of this activity on the Torino community on optics and photonics, allowing the establishment of long-lasting networking with other Student Chapters and OSA members.