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Dual-core optical fibre ups data processing, sensing

Posted: 03 Jan 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:nanomechanical optical fibre? MEMS? data processing? sensing?

This same capability may also enable optical buffering, which, according to the researchers, has been very hard to achieve. "With our nanomechanical fibre structure, we can control the propagation time of light through the fibre by moving the two cores closer together, thereby delaying, or buffering, the data as light," says Loh. Buffers are essential when multiple data streams arrive at a router at the same time; they delay one stream so another can travel freely.

To create the fibres, the researchers heated and stretched a specially shaped tube of optical glass with a hollow centre containing two cores suspended from the inside wall. The fibres maintain this original structure as they are drawn and stretched to the desired thickness.

According to the researchers, this is the first time that nanomechanical dual-core fibres have been directly fabricated. Other types of multi-core fibres have been fabricated previously, but their cores are encased in glass and mechanically locked. This previous design meant that routing, switching, or buffering data involved taking the light out of the optical fibre for processing in the electronic domain before reinsertion back into the fibre, which is cumbersome and costly. "An implication of our work is that we would integrate more of these functions within the fibre backbone through the introduction of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) functionality in the fibres," said Loh.

Since the process uses traditional fibre optic manufacturing techniques, it's possible to create dual-core fibres that are hundreds of meters to several kilometers long, which is essential for telecommunications.

"Nanomechanical fibres could one day take the place of silicon-based MEMS chips, which are used in automobile sensors, video game controllers, projection displays and other every-day applications," added Loh. Because the fibres are so sensitive to pressure and can be readily drawn to very long lengths, they also could be integrated into bridges, dams, and other buildings to signal subtle changes that could indicate structural damage.


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