CAILabs : an optical start-up mentored by Alcatel-Lucent

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About a year ago, we launched the seed fund Technocom 2 in partnership with other strategic and financial partners with the aim of finding and sponsoring the best telecom start-ups in France. This November, we participated in the first funding round of CAILabs, a young French optical start-up. The company has already had a great deal of exposure in the press due to its potentially revolutionary technology resulting from fundamental quantum research carried out and spun-off from the Laboratoire Kastler-Brossel. CAILabs propose a genuinely disruptive technology for directly manipulating laser light that can be used to couple signal carrying light to next generation multi-mode fibers and opening the door to what promises to be the next step in optical transmission technology: Space Division Multiplexing.

Adding to the buzz around the company, the founder Nicolas Treps was awarded last week the prestigious Jean Jerphagnon prize, awarded every year to the company that shown the best application of fundamental optical technologies to the enterprise.

Today, optical transmission systems rely on Wavelength Division Multiplexing to send multiple wavelengths or colors of light down the same optical fiber. Space Division Multiplexing adds a new spatial dimension to this and enables multiple beams or modes of light to pass down a fiber, rather like being able to send multiple jets of water down the same hose-pipe without mixing. This technique is often seen as the next technical revolution required to increase the capacity of optical transmission and in the long term should have the potential to increase by a power of ten optical fiber capacity. By developing a component that can multiplex lasers feeding into fiber on the one side and demultiplex the light towards individual photodetectors on the other side, CAILabs bring an important building block for the future of this technology.

Alcatel-Lucent is the worldwide pioneer in this area and, in addition to the financing via our seed fund, the teams of Gabriel Charlet and Sebastian Bigo at Bell Labs Villarceaux collaborate and continue to work with CAILabs as the company develops. Complementing our own research, we evaluate and test their technology, with an eye on the potential to integrate such components in our own products in the future. We were the first to test their system outside of their laboratories and we continue to watch and advise them in the development, particularly in the next phase of industrialization.

As with all start-ups based on fundamental innovative technologies, there is a long path before CAILabs to refine and commercialize the technology, but the perspectives and rewards are potentially huge. We are happy to travel with them on what promises to be an exciting voyage …

Manipulating photons at leasure... (Source: CAILabs)

CAILabs was created as a spin-off of the Kastler-Brossel Laboratoire of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, worldwide experts in quantum physics and multiple Nobel Prize winners.

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