Zhixin Liu receives funding to develop optical-based ADCs

TRANSNET co-investigator, Dr Zhixin Liu from the Optical Networks Group at UCL, has been awarded over £800,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to develop next-generation analogue-to-digital converters.

Analogue-to-digital converters (ADCs) are devices that translate the physical world of analogue signals – sound picked up from a microphone or light entering a digital camera, for example – into the digital world of binary signals.

ADCs are found in most modern electronics and enable computers and other devices to process and store information, but the volume of information now being generated by societal demand is quickly becoming too much for current converter technologies to cope with.

Zhixin’s new grant, entitled ‘Overcoming Resolution and Bandwidth limIT in radio-frequency Signal digitisation’ (ORBITS for short), aims to address this problem by developing next-generation ADCs capable of supporting information growth into the next decade and beyond.

The novel devices will be developed using emerging technologies in optics and photonics, including optical frequency combs, coherent optical processing, and precise optical phase control, which will allow information to be processed faster and more efficiently than DACs of today. 

To maximise knowledge exchange and impact, ORBITS will also study the application of its innovative DAC technology in high-capacity optical and wireless communications through collaborations with academic and industry partners.

The project starts in September 2021 and runs for three years. Congratulations to Zhixin and the wider team! 

Project Summary

Project: Overcoming Resolution and Bandwidth limIT in radio-frequency Signal digitisation (ORBITS)
Funder: EPSRC Standard Research
Recipient: Dr Zhixin Liu
Partners: Aston University, Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Nokia, Socionext Europe GmbH, Sun Yat sen University, University of Southampton. 
Summary: ORBITS aims to provide a radically novel and future-growth-proof solution to ADCs using optical-assisted means. Specifically, it will exploit unique features of recently emerged optical and photonics technologies, including optical frequency combs, coherent optical processing, and precise optical phase control.


Zhixin Liu is a co-investigator on the TRANSNET Programme. He joined the Optical Networks Group at UCL in 2016 and was recently promoted to Associate Professor.