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(212) 854-6580 Oct. 12, 1998

Columbia Wins NIST Funding of $750,000

For Software to Design and Test Fiber Optics

New Tools Would Cut Costs in Optoelectronics Industry, Agency Says


Columbia University has won funding of $750,000 over five years from the U.S. Department of Commerce‚s National Institute of Standards and Technology to create software to design fiber optic communications equipment ų and test the reliability of th e design before it is manufactured.

Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley announced 79 winning projects worth $236 million in the agency‚s Advanced Technology Program Oct. 7 in Washington. The program provides government seed money for high-risk technologies that promise widespread economic benefits. Columbia is part of a consortium headed by Bellcore in Morristown, N.J., that will receive $10.74 million from the program over five years, in a total budget of $22.75 million, to build the new software, titled „An Integrated Simulati on Environment for Photonics Manufacturing.š

„This is important for Columbia because it helps advance our computer-assisted design program and because it continues and amplifies our links to our industry partners,š said Richard Osgood, Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering, professor of applied physics and Columbia‚s principal investigator on the project. „It‚s impressive to see the federal government taking the lead in providing technical advances that will help build the optoelectronics industry.š

Having computer-assisted design (CAD) software to test fiber optics designs would promote boost the American optoelectronics industry, which is expected to

provide some $2 billion worth of components by the year 2000. Such components include lasers, which produce the light that carries information over fiber networks; isolators, which prevent destabilization of the laser by outside interference; modulato rs, which imprint a signal; and multiplexers, which combine signals of different wavelengths, each carrying a different message. Optoelectronics technology is expected to become more important because fiber optic cable can carry so much more informatio n than copper cables, a distinct advantage for suppliers of telecommunications, imaging, data storage and other systems. Yet there is no industry standard in design and testing software that would enable different firms to exchange ideas, a deficiency th at the eight-member consortium plans to remedy.

Columbia‚s role in the consortium will be to develop complex mathematical algorithms that tell the simulation software how to react when certain parameters, such as the wavelength or intensity of light, are modified. Though the grant has no formal educational component, Prof. Osgood said, Columbia will teach optoelectronics software tools to advanced computer science students, in effect training a new generation of engineers in optoelectronic CAD systems.

Among the other consortium members is RSoft, Inc., Ossining, N.Y., a company founded by Robert and LuAnn Scarmozzino to develop and market optoelectronics CAD software. The firm licensed its first CAD product, BeamPROP, from Columbia. With that s ystem, an engineer can design an optoelectronic component, then simulate it to determine how the effects of design changes and new materials can alter its performance. A new package, LinkSIM, can be used to design and test groups of optical components li nked together.

„This type of software can really save a designer a lot of time, because he or she can predict how a prototype will behave,š Ms. Scarmozzino said. RSoft will lead the consortium in developing software to design and test optoelectronic devices and components, she said.

Other members of the consortium are Lightwave Microsystems Corp., Santa Clara, Calif.; Nortel Networks, McLean, Va.; SDL, Inc., San Jose, Calif.; and Science Applications International Corp., McLean, Va.

The planned software will accommodate an expandable library of tools that can generate designs at the network, equipment, component and device levels.

Efficient data exchange will enable designers to predict the effects of changes at one level on other levels. The software will help to optimize overall performance of fiber optic networks, which in turn should help other industries that rely heavily on communications and imaging, such as medicine, transportation, computers, defense and entertainment.

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