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Crystalline core enhances optical fiber performance

Posted: 03 Mar 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:fiber optic? zinc-selenide? wavelength range?

A team of researchers at Pennsylvania State University recently demonstrated optical fibers that harbor a compound semiconductor core.

Under the leadership of Prof. John Badding, the university researchers displayed what they claimed to be the world's first fiber optic cables with zinc-selenide cores. According to them, these optical fibers have a wider wavelength range and superior photonic qualities compared with the currently used amorphous core fibers.

"The key advantage is that these fibers operate over a wide wavelength range, specifically into the long IR and, just as importantly, that one can exploit the material properties of crystalline compound semiconductors," said Badding

According to Badding, using optical fibers with a compound semiconductor core enabled them to perform many of the same amplification and waveguide functions that today are being demonstrated on optical chips, but were impossible for traditional optical fibers with amorphous cores.

"Crystalline compound semiconductors can host transition-metal gain media, which amorphous semiconductors cannot," said Badding. "The fiber cores can also be made smoother and more symmetric than competing planar compound semiconductor waveguides, potentially giving them superior wave-guiding properties."

Application of the new optical fibers, which can work with wavelengths as long as 15 microns, will range from more versatile radar and better countermeasure lasers for the military, to improved medical lasers for surgeons, to better environmental sensors to measure pollutants or to detect the release of chemical agents by terrorists.

Badding performed the work with doctoral candidate Justin Sparks and in collaboration with fellow professors Rongrui He, Mahesh Krishnamurthi, Venkatraman Gopalan along with Pier Sazio, Anna Peacock, and Noel Healy of the Optoelectronics Research Center at the University of Southampton. The National Science Foundation and the Penn State University Materials Research Science and Engineering Center provided funding for the project.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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