Professor Véronique François

Creating computers with embedded optics

January 11, 2016
Véronique François is a professor in the Department of
Electrical Engineering at ÉTS.
Advances in the field of fibre optics, photonic devices and optoelectronic circuits have revolutionized the telecommunications universe. Another major shift is developing, in which fibre optics featuring enhanced spatial density will play a preponderant role. Véronique François is among those leading the way.

Enhancing spatial density

Some tasks that require enormous calculation capacities, such as weather forecasting, climate study and molecular modelling, are performed by supercomputers. These high-performance machines contain a large number of cores that must be connected together using “interconnects”. Traditionally made of copper, they are now being replaced by optical interconnects. While these interconnects are ideal for communication among mainframes, they are too large for electronic circuits.

Multi-core microstructured fibres

In order to solve the size problem, Véronique François is seeking to enhance the spatial density of interconnects by working with multi-core microstructured fibres instead of conventional fibre optics. These fibres are filled with numerous waveguides that can transmit data in parallel.

Singlemode fibre

Another avenue that Véronique François is exploring is the integration of singlemode fibre optics into optical interconnects, which currently function with multimode fibres that do not allow for the transmission of data over lengths exceeding 500 metres. With the incredible growth in the quantity of data, certain industry leaders, including Facebook and Google, are seeking connections that can cover up 2,000 metres to link their gigantic computer parks.

At present, we are still at the research stage, but according to Véronique François, a true pioneer in the sector, multi-core microstructured fibres will be reality within five years, signalling the beginning of another technological revolution.

How can we cover great distances in less time? With fibre optics, Véronique François has certainly found the quickest path. However, she has already considered a more traditional and romantic method for covering great distances: piloting long-haul aircraft.

“Everything depends on three parameters: distance, speed and density.”

In 2003, after spending 11 years as a researcher in the burgeoning optical telecommunications industry, Véronique François joined the Department of Electrical Engineering at ÉTS as a Professor. Her areas of expertise include photonics, optical instrumentation, fibre optics, optical interconnects and configurable optical switches.
Pour information
Service des communications ÉTS
Chantal Crevier
514 396-8800, ext. 7893

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