These photos show a glass fiber with a bundle of semiconductor wires emanating from it. Each wire is just 2 microns in diameter--20 times smaller than a human hair. The glass fiber is glowing from blue laser light. One of the images shows the wire-packed glass fiber passing through the eye of a needle. Credit: Neil Baril, Penn State.
Optical fiber helped bring us the Internet, and silicon/germanium devices brought us microelectronics. Now, a joint team from Penn State University and the University of Southampton has developed a new way to combine these technologies. The team has made semiconductor devices, including a transistor, inside microstructured optical fibers. The resulting ability to generate and manipulate signals inside optical fibers could have applications in fields as diverse as medicine, computing, and remote sensing devices.
Optical fiber has proved to be the ideal medium for transmitting signals based on light, while crystalline semiconductors are the best way to manipulate electrons. One of the greatest current technological challenges is exchanging information between optics and electronics rapidly and efficiently. This new technique may provide the tools to cross the divide. The results of this research will be published in the 17 March edition of the journal Science.
"This advance is the basis for a technology that could build a large range of devices inside an optical fiber," said John Badding, associate professor of chemistry at Penn State University. While the optical fiber transmits data, a semiconductor device allows active manipulation of the light, including generating and detecting, amplifying signals, and controlling wavelengths. "If the signal never leaves the fiber, then it is faster, cheaper and more efficient," said Badding. "
Barbara K. Kennedy | EurekAlert!
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