Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New process builds electronic function into optical fiber

17.03.2006



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. "



"This fusion of two separate technologies opens the possibility of true optoelectronic devices that do not require conversion between optical and electronic signals," said Pier Sazio, senior research fellow in the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton (UK). "If you think of the fiber as a water main, this structure places the pumping station inside the pipe. The glass fiber provides the transmission and the semiconductor provides the function."

Beyond telecommunications, optical fibers are used in a wide range of technologies that employ light. "For example, in endoscopic surgery, by building a laser inside the fiber you might be able to deliver a wavelength that could not otherwise be used," said Badding.

The key breakthrough was the ability to form crystalline semiconductors that nearly fill the entire inside diameter, or pore, of very narrow glass capillaries. These capillaries are optical fibers--long, clear tubes that can carry light signals in many wavelengths simultaneously. When the tube is filled with a crystalline semiconductor, such as germanium, the semiconductor forms a wire inside the optical fiber. The combination of optical and electrical capabilities provides the platform for development of new optoelectronic devices.

The crystals were formed using chemical vapor deposition (CVD) to deposit germanium and other semiconductors inside the long, narrow pores of the hollow optical fiber. In the CVD process, a germanium compound is vaporized and then forced through the pores of the fiber at pressures as high as 1000 times atmospheric pressure and temperatures up to 500°C. A chemical reaction within the fiber allows germanium to coat the interior walls of the hollow fiber and then form crystals that grow inward. "The process works so perfectly that you can get a germanium tube that has an opening in the center of only 25 nanometers through the length of the fiber," said Sazio. "This is only a tiny fraction of the diameter of the fiber pore, so it is essentially a wire." This is the first demonstration of building crystalline structures, which are best for semiconductor devices, inside the pores of the capillaries.

The team has built a simple in-fiber transistor, and they point to the success of the Erbium Doped Fiber Amplifier, which was invented at Southampton in the late 1980s, to illustrate the transformational possibilities of this technology. By incorporating the chemical element erbium into the fiber, the Erbium Amplifier allows efficient transmission of data signals in transoceanic optical fibers. "Without that kind of device, it would be necessary to periodically convert the light to an electronic signal, amplify the signal, and convert it back to light, which is expensive and inefficient" said Sazio. " Since its inception, the Erbium Amplifier has made the internet possible in its current form."

Beyond the simple devices that this research has demonstrated, the research team sees the potential for the embedded semiconductors to carry optoelectronic applications to the next level. "At present you still have electrical switching at both ends of the optical fiber," says Badding. "If we can get to the point where the signal never leaves the fiber, it will be faster and more efficient. If we can actually generate signals inside a fiber, a whole range of optoelectronic applications become possible."

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

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators
14.12.2018 | DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

nachricht In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet
14.12.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>