Montana State University

The Spectrum Lab

The Spectrum Lab charter comprises three missions: 1) develop multi-spectral optical concepts into prototype systems that provide computational, communication, sensor, or measurement capabilities that exceed state-of-the-art capabilities; 2) provide an educational environment for graduate and undergraduate students that prepares them directly for the goal-oriented, time-critical, team project emphasis of corporate research; and 3) establish corporate partnerships to transition emerging applications to commercial products, boosting economic growth and infrastructure in Montana. To accomplish these goals, multidisciplinary teams from diverse technical areas assemble to pursue specific development projects. Optical and electronic laboratory facilities support research efforts complemented by departmental programs, drawing on the combined expertise of Spectrum Lab personnel and affiliated faculty. A 32-processor SGI Origin 2000 supercomputer, shared with the Center for Computational Biology, provides superb scientific modeling capability.

Several projects are ongoing. An all-optical correlator project will process signals continuously at 10 Gbit/sec. One application consists of identifying patterns in multiple-probe data from neural bundles to establish their adaptive cooperative function. More generally, this correlator can contribute to iterative computation, used in adaptive imaging. Cache memory for a next generation (petaflops-scale) supercomputer will be built using all-optical technology. Application of this concept extends to buffer memory for data routing in communication networks. Supplementing this capability, all-optical routing switches are being devised with intended application in storage area networks - large distributed data banks, regionally interconnected. Frequency references for spectroscopic measurement and clocks have been demonstrated in compact implementations, and their application in precision-timing measurement instruments is under development.

The common thread throughout these projects is the exploitation of the spectral attributes of optical fields to provide either immense bandwidth in information processing or exquisite precision in oscillator stability. A spectroscopic discipline called spectral hole burning (or optical coherent transients) sustains much of the technology development. Other core techniques include ultra-short optical pulse shaping for data multiplexing, and the development of optical micro-resonators for wavelength discrimination and switching devices.

The Spectrum Lab staff consists of research scientists and engineers as well as postdoctoral fellows. It currently recognizes faculty affiliates in Physics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Chemistry and Biochemistry. Collaborations with Computer Science and Mematical Sciences are anticipated. The Spectrum Lab has close connections with other MSU centers: the Optical Technology Center (OpTeC), the Center for Computational Biology (CCB), and the Center for Biofilms Engineering (CBE).

Both graduate and undergraduate students are supported to participate in Spectrum Lab projects. Research that contributes to these projects, pursued under the supervision of either Spectrum Lab research professor staff or affiliated departmental faculty, can partially satisfy educational requirements or serve as the independent work toward advanced degrees.

For more information, go to or call (406) 994-7596.

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