By: Brandon Gillet

Algonquin recently integrated its 12 year old photonics program with Carleton’s bachelor of information technology, giving students an equally practical and theoretical approach to the future of the industry using Canada’s leading lab facilities.

Dr. Wahab Almuhtadi, of Algonquin’s Faculty of Technology and Trades, is the coordinator of the new four year bachelor program teaching practical photonics at Algonquin, while Carleton covers theoretical. Students therefore receive diverse and highly regarded training to prepare them for competitive careers in photonics and laser technology.

“All of our graduates from 2001 to 2011 have been hired,” said Dr. Almuhtadi, “There is huge return into the community and Algonquin is first place in leading this technology.”

Students are trained with Algonquin’s superior curriculum and lab facilities in photonics, laser technology, and optophotonics (telecommunications, information technology).

Photonics and laser technology is the science of harnessing and manipulating light. Think of how the human eye detects and interprets light allowing us to see; the difference is this technology allows us to generate and manipulate light geared for applications in a range of departments.

From cell phones and computers, to medical and military uses, PLT is now found in everything used in the technological world. Built in rising numbers, electronic devices as well as the networks to power them, rely on fiber optics to operate.

“Photonics will be for the 21st century as electricity was for the 20th,” said Dr. Theo Mirtchev, Professor of Applied Science and Environmental Technology.

Practical applications in laser technology are in high demand. In medicine, laser technology can help doctors perform surgical incisions without drawing blood. The light’s power is controlled to perform safe and precise procedures.

The technology can also be used in DNA analysis, biological mapping, and magnification. The military uses laser guided targeting systems, tracking equipment, and weapons that rely on fiber optic telecommunication to save lives.

Even the Hubble telescope operates using PLT.

The most common application is the fast-moving field of worldwide telecommunications. Since 2010, every continent has been connected with networks of large fiber optic cables stretching the ocean floors. Canada is linked via the Trans-Atlantic cable running from New York to London.

“Optic cables will soon replace conventional wiring in homes,” said Dr. Mirtchev.

“We drive the industry by constantly creating new program apps and devices,” said Dr. Almuhtadi. “The more we connect, network speed and capacity weakens, so we must take the next step.”

The program begins with basic math and calculus, then students gradually move into fiber optics and laser systems. The photonics and laser labs explore laser generation and manipulation in a fully hands-on approach. Students harness light to create seamless 3D holograms, cut through metal or brick and even make music.

Algonquin’s $5 million optophotonics lab features a network of telecommunications servers which are linked worldwide. Students are trained to monitor the complex systems and maintain server connectivity.

There are many perks to Algonquin’s program simply due to its reputation.

“Most of our students will be involved in research projects as early as second year,” said Dr. Mirtchev. “It’s a great opportunity to meet people, establish networks, and get paid.”

This program and the ever increasing use of its applications will give students the tools to become innovators in technological advancement. Top companies have hired pre-grad students due to high demand for Algonquin trained personnel.

“Almost one hundred per cent of our students were immediately hired from graduation and work for leading companies like the Ciena Corporation,” said Dr. Mirtchev.