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Embedded tech in optical fiber ups telecom speed

Posted: 20 Feb 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:optical fiber? telecommunications? embedded? optoelectronic engineering?

A newly developed optical fiber has been revealed by researchers from the University of Southampton and Pennsylvania State University. According to the team, they have pioneered embedding the high level performance of chip-based semiconductors into an optical fiber, yielding high-speed optoelectronic function.

The researchers have taken a novel approach to the problems traditionally associated with embedding this technology. Rather than merge a flat chip with a round optical fiber, they found a way to build a new kind of optical fiber with its own integrated electronic component, thereby bypassing the need to integrate fiber-optics into a chip. They used high-pressure chemistry techniques to deposit semiconducting materials layer by layer directly into tiny holes in optical fibers. The potential applications of the device include improved telecommunications and other hybrid optical/electronic technologies, stated the researchers.

"The big breakthrough here is that we don't need the whole chip as part of the finished product. We have managed to build the junctionthe active boundary where all the electronic action takes placeright into the fiber," noted Pier Sazio, senior research fellow in the University of Southampton's optoelectronics research center (ORC). "Moreover, while conventional chip fabrication requires multimillion dollar clean room facilities, our process can be performed with simple equipment that costs much less."

"The integration of optical fibers and chips is difficult for many reasons. First, fibers are round and cylindrical, while chips are flat, so simply shaping the connection between the two is a challenge. Another challenge is the alignment of pieces that are so small. An optical fiber is 10 times smaller than the width of a human hair," indicated John Badding, professor of Chemistry at Penn State. "On top of that, there are light-guiding pathways that are built onto chips that are even smaller than the fibers by as much as 100 times, so imagine just trying to line those two devices up."

The research has many potential non-telecommunications applications. It represents a very different approach to fabricating semiconductor junctions that the team is investigating. "This demonstration of complex in-fiber optoelectronic engineering is exciting, as it has the potential to be a key enabling technology in the drive for faster, lower cost, and more energy efficient communication networks," reckoned Noel Healy, ORC postdoctoral researcher.

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