Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Materials for first optical fibers with high-speed electronic function are developed

06.02.2012
For the first time, a group of chemists, physicists, and engineers has developed crystalline materials that allow an optical fiber to have integrated, high-speed electronic functions.

The potential applications of such optical fibers include improved telecommunications and other hybrid optical and electronic technologies, improved laser technology, and more-accurate remote-sensing devices.


For the first time, researchers have developed crystalline materials that allow an optical fiber to have integrated, high-speed electronic functions. The potential applications of such optical fibers include improved telecommunications and other hybrid optical and electronic technologies, improved laser technology, and more-accurate remote-sensing devices. The international team, led by John Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State, will publish its findings in the journal Nature Photonics. The team built an optical fiber with a high-speed electronic junction -- the active boundary where all the electronic action takes place -- integrated adjacent to the light-guiding fiber core. Light pulses (white spheres) traveling down the fiber can be converted to electrical signals (square wave) inside the fiber by the junction. The potential applications of such optical fibers include improved telecommunications and other hybrid optical and electronic technologies and improved laser technology. Credit: John Badding lab, Penn State University

The research was initiated by Rongrui He, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemistry at Penn State University. The international team, led by John Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State, will publish its findings in the journal Nature Photonics.

Badding explained that one of the greatest current technological challenges is exchanging information between optics and electronics rapidly and efficiently. Existing technology has resulted in sometimes-clumsy ways of merging optical fibers with electronic chips -- silicon-based integrated circuits that serve as the building blocks for most semiconductor electronic devices such as solar cells, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), computers, and cell phones. "The optical fiber is usually a passive medium that simply transports light, while the chip is the piece that performs the electrical part of the equation," Badding said.

"For example, light is transmitted from London to New York via fiber-optic cables when two people set up a video call on their computers. But the computer screens and associated electronic devices have to take that light and convert it to an image, which is an electrical process. Light and electricity are working in concert in a process called an OEO conversion, or an optical-electrical-optical conversion." Badding said that, ideally, rather than coupling the optical fiber to the chip, as is routine in existing technology, a "smart fiber" would have the electronic functions already built in.

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. 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," Badding said. "So imagine just trying to line those two devices up. That feat is a big challenge for today's technology."

To address these challenges, the team members took a different approach. 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 onto a chip. To do this, they used high-pressure chemistry techniques to deposit semiconducting materials directly, layer by layer, into tiny holes in optical fibers. "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 junction -- the active boundary where all the electronic action takes place -- right into the fiber," said Pier J. A. Sazio of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and one of the team's leaders. "Moreover, while conventional chip fabrication requires multimillion-dollar clean-room facilities, our process can be performed with simple equipment that costs much less."

Sazio added that one of the key goals of research in this field is to create a fast, all-fiber network. "If the signal never leaves the fiber, then it is a faster, cheaper, and more efficient technology," said Sazio. "Moving technology off the chip and directly onto the fiber, which is the more-natural place for light, opens up the potential for embedded semiconductors to carry optoelectronic applications to the next level. At present, you still have electrical switching at both ends of the optical fiber. If we can actually generate signals inside a fiber, a whole range of optoelectronic applications becomes possible."

The research also has many potential non-telecommunications applications. "For example, our work also represents a very different approach to fabricating semiconductor junctions that we are investigating for solar-cell applications," said Badding.

In addition to Badding, Sazio, and He, other researchers who contributed to this study include Venkatraman Gopalan of Penn State, and Anna C. Peacock and Noel Healy of the Optoelectronics Research Centre in the United Kingdom.

The research was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council of the United Kingdom.

[ Katrina Voss ]

CONTACTS

John Badding: 814-777-3054 (mobile), jbadding@pearl.chem.psu.edu
Pier J. A. Sazio: 44-23-8059-3144, pjas@orc.soton.ac.uk
Barbara Kennedy (PIO): 814-863-4682, science@psu.edu

Barbara Kennedy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psu.edu

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht New biomaterial could replace plastic laminates, greatly reduce pollution
21.09.2017 | Penn State

nachricht Stopping problem ice -- by cracking it
21.09.2017 | Norwegian University of Science and Technology

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>