Colloquia & Guest Speakers

Powering the Internet

Prof. Wayne Knox The Institute of Optics

Monday, March 28, 2016
3 p.m.

Goergen 101


Recently, it has been realized that the exponential rise of data transmitted on The Internet is taking an increasingly significant amount of electrical power, as a result of the necessity to switch, distribute, and process all the data.  Optical technology created this problem by enabling almost limitless transmission of high capacity data through optical fibers globally over ultralong distances.  We pause to ponder how this happened, where we are going, and consider the ironic proposal that Optics could also offer a solution to the problem.  Is this really a problem?  We are all used to getting text messages like: “Warning -- you have used more than 90% of your monthly data allowance...”  Perhaps someday we will get a big text message from Planet Earth saying “Warning -- you are using more than 90% of the global electrical power generation capacity to power your Internet.”  Of course, we will not stop using more and more data every month, and we won't take away all of the SmartPhones from our children, so clearly something needs to be done about this. But seriously, what good is having terabit per second access to our houses if we can't run our refrigerators anymore?  Think about this next time you upload 100 GB into the “cloud” -- is it really “free?”


Wayne H. Knox was born in Rochester in 1957.  He received the BS degree from the Institute of Optics in 1979 and the PhD degree from the Institute of Optics in 1984.  He went to Bell Laboratories as a postdoctoral member of technical staff in 1984, and was promoted to member of technical staff in 1985.  In 1993, he was promoted to distinguished member of technical staff, and in 1997 to director of the Advanced Photonics Research Department.  In 2001, he returned to the Institute of Optics in the position of director and professor of optics.  He has chaired many international scientific meetings such as the Ultrafast Phenomena Meeting, CLEO, OSA Annual Meeting, Ultrafast Electronics and Optoelectronics, and the Quantum Optoelectronics Topical Meeting, among many others.  Professor Knox is a fellow of the Optical Society of America and fellow and Life Member of the American Physical Society.  He received the 1990 Initiatives in Research Award from the National Academy of Sciences, and the 1999 American Association of Physics Teachers Richtmyer Award.  Professor Knox lives in Pittsford, NY with his wife and five of their six children.

Location: Goergen 101

Refreshments will be served