A batteries and bells kit Christmas present first sparked Arthur Lowery’s interest in communications systems at the age of four. He made a crude system using a pair of wires that was able to send messages in both directions before graduating to more elaborate engineering kits that spawned telephone tapping devices and push-pull audio amplifiers.
Lowery was always captivated by the impact of small changes on large systems.He dabbled in robotics using a Meccano set, designing Beryl the robot whose main skills were walking and sword waving. Lowery demonstrated his entrepreneurial skills at his local comprehensive school in the industrial north of England. He built guitars and sold guitar stomp-boxes, amplifiers, and car testing instruments.Later, he began his PhDfocusing on efficient methods of simulating how lasers switched on and off in communications systems, while lecturing at Nottingham University.
Lowery secured a job at the University of Melbourne before helping found the Australian Photonics Cooperative Research Centre. They funded the integration of laser and fibre models into a graphical user interface to produce OPALS – a laser and photonic circuit simulator.
In 1996, he and research fellow Phil Gurney formed Virtual Photonics, selling hundreds of thousands of dollars of software to clients such as Fujitsu, IBM, Bell Labs and NASA. They took advantage of booming market conditions, merging the business withBerlin’s BNeD to form VPIvirtualPhotonics, now VPIphotonics. His team developed software to predict how combinations of optical components behaved when connected. This software allowed engineers and scientists to communicate their ideas over the internet as it provided a unique and accessible photonics‘language’. Lowery’s more recent company, Ofidium, is commercialising technologies to improve optical fibre data capacity. Fittingly, many of these technologies were first demonstratedusing VPI’s software, to support early patent applications.
Knitting together novel ideas using electrical engineering as the platform has helped VPI’s customers publish about 1,000 papers using the company’s simulations. They produced numerous products, such as very narrow linewidth lasers for communications and security applications. At Monash University, VPI has enabled Lowery and his students test the waters on ideas before building them in the laboratory. This has saved time and money and kept them a step ahead of well-funded industrial research laboratories.
In June 2013,the Australian Research Council awarded Lowery one of 17 Laureate Fellowships to develop novel combinations of electronics and photonics for optical networks.His current work tackles data bottlenecks in optical fibre networks to provide better photonic switches and methods of combining or splitting data paths, as well as simple methods of smoothing signal‘wrinkles’across networks. This work involves a strong team effort including students, systems engineers and chip designers.
As a science leader in the CUDOS(Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems) ARC Centre of Excellence, Lowery heads the terabit-per-second project across several universities to manufacture optical methods of generating tens of thousands of gigabits-per-second data streams. The project team developed universal transmitters that format data into different signal types to fill the communications bandwidth of fibers for testing.
Lowery currently mentors many PhD students and research fellows at Monash University, shaping their creativity to ensure their ideas remain at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. He also leads Monash Vision Group's Cortical Bionic Eye project, which aims to will help thousands of people who are totally blind. This has laid the foundations for Lowery’s involvement with the development of bidirectional brain interfaces for the Centre of Integrative Brain Research.