The Device Research Laboratory (LPD) was founded at 1972 by José Ellis Ripper Filho, a newcomer from Bell laboratories in USA. The initial objective of the group was to research the demanded lasers for optical fiber communication on Brazil. As well as in electrical transmissions, two elements are required – something to generate the electricity and the wires to conduct it – for optical communications: lasers to generate light and optical fibers to guide it. The lasers were researched by LPD and the optical fibers by the Optical Fibers Group, which was founded at 1975.
The state-owned interest – The appearance of the group is inwardly related with the Brazilian government projects about the implementation of a national communication system. Until 1960, the telecommunication market was deeply fragmented, with dozens of small and big companies, national and international. This was a barrier to the national integration projects as well as to the projects involving military government centralization, which took control after the 1964’s coup. This way, one of the strategic areas elected by the regime was the integration of the country by means of telecommunications. To achieve this objective, Embratel was created in 1965 and, in 1972, Telebrás – that then passed to control Embratel itself and the state operators.
The group foundation – In the meantime, the semiconductors researches was started at IFGW. The trio Ripper, Rogério Cerqueira Leite and Sérgio Porto, which has arrived at Unicamp between 1970 and 1972 (they all has worked on Bell laboratories – the same lab where the lasers had been improved until the point in which they could be used on optical communications), gave a big impulse on solid state physics researches at the institute. A program in this area, constituted by three line of research, was defined. These lines were: (1) the fabrication of the devices itself (laser, transistors, diodes); (2) the study of the basic process required for the devices construction (crystal production and they derivatives); and (3) the study of the basic physic required for it (the Solid State Physics).
The Solid State Department of IFGW was then founded (currently known as Condensed Matter). Soon after, the Applied Physics Department was founded by the direction of Ripper. For the section of devices, Ripper and the Indian Physicist Navin Patel founded in 1971 the Research Group of Semiconductors Devices at the Applied Physics Department – afterwards called Devices Research Laboratory.
Scientists take the field – Telebrás also planned to invest at the development of researches involving the formation of a Brazilian industrial park in this area. Knowing about this intention, Ripper got in touch with the company, yet in 1972. From this point on, they started to implement a lot of covenants between the company and Unicamp. One of these covenants was the Project of Communication System by Lasers, coordinated by Ripper. The Lasers would be developed by the Group of Semiconductor Devices.
The bet on optical fibers – At the same period, Ripper and Sérgio Porto have suggested a project to develop optical fibers in Brazil. It was cutting-edge idea: at only two years before, researches at the United States had reached the necessary improvement degree of optical fibers and lasers to enable the construction of optical communication systems; and the first optical system of this kind would be installed on USA at 1978.
The academy and company teams – Telebrás has accepted to finance the project and, on January of 1974, a new contract was signed between the company and Unicamp, which included, in the Project of Communication System by lasers, a sub-project of Optical Fibers, that would be manufactured by the Optical Fibers Group, and then by the Group of Ultrafast Phenomena and Optical Communication (GFURCO). The lasers would continue to be manufactured by the Group of Semiconductor Devices. Moreover, some groups of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of Unicamp were involved as well.
The objective of the project was to develop the technology of manufacture of optical fibers, lasers and devices and then to transfer it to the national industry. For the transfer, Telebrás has founded the Research Center at Development and telecommunications (CqPD), in Campinas. This center would do the studies focused on the industry direct application, while the Unicamp groups would take care of the more academic previous stage. Latter, in 1981, members of LPD, of LED (Laboratory of Electronics and Devices) and of MGE (Laboratory of Electronic Degree Materials), these from the former Faculty of Engineering of Campinas (nowadays fragmented on diverse faculties of engineering in Unicamp) have formed the Center of Semiconductor Components (CCS), at the same university.
The new technology in action – In 1980, it was completed the technology transfer process to the companies, with the contract between Telebrás and ABC-Xtal, in 1983, for the manufacture of optical fibers. In 1989, Ripper founded, alongside with Francisco Prince, the company AsGa, whose initial objective was to fabricate the optoelectronics components.
The departure of CPqD – As from the early ‘90s, CPqD had begun bit by bit to leave the researches about optical communications. The model adopted by the government involving the communications development was suffering a change-over that got completed in 1998, when Telebrás was privatized. At this point, CPqD completely abandoned the researches with optical fibers, lasers and microelectronics and began to invest only on communications system per se.
The interactions with the companies and other institutions continued, however, like in the case of Mectron, AsGa, Padtec, the Center of Semiconductor Components and the Brazilian army (for which an infrared sensor was developed).
Diversification – The IFGW’s groups involved with optical communication passed then to diversify your research lines, with a more academic profile, yet always articulating the basic research with the applied one. Optoelectronics and photonic devices for several applications continued to be researched; New research areas involving optomechanics, integrated photonics, silicon photonics and nanolasers became the main research themes of the laboratory.
During your existence, LPD had 7 coordinators:
*José Ellis Ripper
*Navin B. Patel
*Carlos A. Ribeiro
*Francisco C. De Prince
*Mauro Monteiro G. De Carvalho
*Marcio Alberto A. Pudenzi
*Mauro Monteiro G. De Carvalho
*Newton C. Frateschi (current)
The section about the group history was based, mostly, on the booklet “The beginnings of the optical communications in Brazil (1964-1984)”, written by Verónica Savignano, whose researches were done in collaboration with Eliane Valente, Ludmila Maia and Simone Telles; it was part of the commemorative event about the 30 years of the first Brazilian optical fiber, in 2007, at Unicamp.