Interview: How can Fiber Optics take you to a new level?

Walter Margulis, senior scientist at Acreo, is an expert in this field.

As one of the leading scientists working with fiber optics today, Walter Margulis is recognized both in Sweden and internationally. He also works at Acreo Swedish ICT. Due to Walter’s recognized expertise in his field, he is often asked to participate in the peer review process for The Optical Society (OSA) journals. This year, he received the inaugural 2012 OSA Outstanding Reviewer Award for his “indispensable contribution to the success and stature of the OSA journal publishing program”.

What is your area of expertise?

I work with optical fibers and non-linear optics in fibers. Fiber optics has applications in all kinds of areas. That’s what makes it so interesting and important. The project we are working on right now about how to control light in a fiber is really exciting. Also exciting is a project we are involved in where we look at how to use fiber to study biological processes.

What do you aim to achieve?

I want to reach the point where our department is acknowledged as a leader in its field of science and technology, development of methods, techniques, products and services for a sustainable society.

How can industry and society benefit from your research?

Photonics and fiber optics are enabling technologies. Optical fibers can be used in telecommunications as the “backbone” of the Internet, in sensing, industrial processing and in medicine. Fibers are used in many fields and SMEs can make use of the opportunities we create.

How does your research stand internationally?

We are leading the way in a couple of specific areas. Generally, however, the further we are academically, the further we are from a commercial product. It takes years to turn a new result into a commercial success.

What is the best about working at Acreo Swedish ICT?

Swedish ICT typically works with industries, so the dialogue between companies and Swedish ICT institutes is easier than with universities. Researchers there should contact us because we offer an easier route to collaboration with industry.

How do you collaborate with industry or the public sector?

I am on the academic side of Acreo so I collaborate closely with universities. Otherwise, collaboration with industry can involve mundane problems, such as mounting a fiber piece in a support, or complicated solutions, such as developing an advanced system for measuring distances, or storing radar signals.

How can your research encourage innovation?

We use ICT to create new tools that solve specific problems. We have a huge number of techniques with fiber optics that are often unknown to those with practical industrial problems. Familiarity with what is available is useful to solve what is apparently a complicated problem.

Why start a project together with Swedish ICT?

Fiber optics is an enabling technology applied to different fields, so it would be counterproductive to specify prerequisites for discussions. I suggest that when a company is about to launch a project, where they suspect optical fibers could be of use, they should talk to us first. Every case is different and the best thing we can do is discuss the specific problem and possible solutions.

Which achievement from 2012 are you most proud of?

I could cite a couple of nice technical results, but the best, of course, refers to people: three PhD students who worked with us successfully completed their studies in 2012.

What do you look forward to 2013?

It would be great to participate in yet another European project as they typically last for three years. That would give us the chance to work in peace and develop new technology with colleagues around Europe. I am looking forward to the workshop on Specialty Optical Fibers – an international meeting that we are organizing in Sigtuna (near Stockholm) in August. Experts from all over the world will be there.

This interview was published in our annual report 2012.