‘Greener’ telecommunications

Séamus Hickey, BEng in Biomedical Engineering Graduate, PhD Researcher in Green Technology and Limerick Senior Hurler. Séamus is part of the research team at UL’s Stokes Institute who are working on the critical challenge of thermal control for high speed communications – increasing broadband speeds while improving energy efficiency.

Photonics devices are used to transmit data over optical fibres for high-speed, long-haul communications – an increasingly important requirement to support today’s cloud-based computing technologies. Strict temperature control is essential to allow the transmission of data using laser arrays, and this leads to high energy consumption. In his research, Séamus is using novel small-scale ‘micro-thermoelectric modules’ to achieve energy efficient temperature control – thus saving costs and minimising the impact of data centres on the environment.

Séamus is one of UL’s many PhD graduates striving for excellence and making a real impact to our economy. 94% of UL’s PhD graduates are employed, with the majority working in Ireland and helping to build our world-leading innovation ecosystem.

Explaining the significance of his research, Séamus said “Today’s telecommunications networks allow ubiquitous information access through mobile devices such as smart phones – we have become accustomed to instantaneous streaming of live footage to our fingertips anywhere. The technology behind such high speed data transmission consumes a lot of electricity, with the waste energy given off in the form of heat. Our research works to make the technologies behind the information revolution greener and cheaper by dealing with the source of the heat and removing it efficiently.”

This research is funded by Alcatel-Lucent/Bell Labs and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering & Technology (IRCSET). For further information about the Stokes Institute, University of Limerick go to www.stokes.ie