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 Gelatine instead of forearm
19.04.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

nachricht Computers create recipe for two new magnetic materials
18.04.2017 | Duke University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>