Pulse Power and Measurement to develop satellite comms tech with Aston University

Dr Muhammad Nouman Malik
Muhammad Malik at PPM_Aston KTP engineer

Shrivenham-based Pulse Power and Measurement Ltd (PPM) has been working with Aston University to develop what it says is a game-changing approach to technology used in the radio-over-fibre communications industry.

The project, run through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), will look to transform the connection between low earth orbit (LEO) satellite antenna dishes and modems through optics rather than electronics, delivering performance, functionality and cost benefits.

A KTP is a three-way collaboration between a business, an academic partner and a highly qualified graduate, known as a KTP associate. The UK-wide programme helps businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills. Aston University is the leading KTP provider within the Midlands.

PPM designs and manufactures a wide range of Radio Frequency (RF) over fibre systems, which allow RF electrical signals to be submitted over fibre optic cables. Its ‘ViaLite Communications’ business division is focused on optical transportation and manipulation of analogue radio communication signals used in applications such as satellite communications, telemetry, broadcasting, cellular base stations and radar. The company has a range of high-profile international clients, including tier 1 satellite and broadcast providers.

Through the KTP, PPM will have access to academic expertise from the Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies, one of the largest photonics research groups in the world. The academics working on this project are Dr Paul Harper and Professor Wladek Forysiak, both of whom have extensive experience of academic research and industrial development in the field of optical fibre communications. Performing the role of associate is Dr Muhammad Nouman Malik.

Dr Harper is head of the Electrical and Electronic Engineering department, while Professor Forysiak is currently a Royal Academy of Engineering Professor in highly integrated coherent optical fibre communications and has previously held positions as EPSRC Manufacturing Fellow and Royal Society Industry Fellow.

Gary Barton, company supervisor at PPM, said: “Collaboration with Aston University via the KTP incentive is enabling PPM to push the boundaries of optical transport systems necessary to meet the challenges of new and diverse market requirements.

“With the valued assistance of Aston University’s Institute of Photonics Technologies, the development programme is on course to deliver on PPM’s ambition to advance the next generation of analogue optics.”

Dr Paul Harper, head of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Aston University, said: “This KTP project has been a great way for us to work with a new industrial partner and learn from PPM’s expertise in radio-over-fibre systems while passing on our optical fibre systems knowledge. Despite the problems posed to mobility by the pandemic, we’ve successfully completed collaborative proof-of-concept lab demonstrations in the first year of the project and are now moving onto the next phase of the development work.”

Dr Muhammad Nouman Malik, associate on the project, said: “Acting as a bridge between academic and industrial partners has given me the opportunity to gain experience managing a challenging real-world project, with dedicated coaching and mentoring accelerating my personal development.”