Washington, October 28 : A team of American researchers claims that they have been able to make a practical optical fiber with a silicon core.
Writing about their work in the open-access journal Optics Express, Clemson University scientist John Ballato and fiber pioneer Roger Stolen revealed that they could create the new fiber by employing the same commercial methods that are used to develop all-glass fibers, making silicon fibers viable alternatives to glass fibers for selected specialty applications.
The researchers believe that their breakthrough may pave the way for highly efficient computers and other electronic devices, which will consume less power.
Optical fibers carry an increasing fraction of phone calls, television programs and Internet traffic. The main advantage of using optical fibers is higher bandwidth, which means faster downloads from the Web, for example.
The researchers say that the ability to produce silicon fibers commercially would create the opportunity for more compact devices with decreased power consumption in telecommunications and beyond.
"In essence, we've married optoelectronics with optical fibers. In the past, we've needed one structure to process light and another to carry it. With a silicon fiber, for the first time, we have the ability to greatly enhance the functionality in one fiber," said Ballato.
According to the research team, the development of a silicon fiber opens the way for signal processing functions that are currently done electronically or in separate optical circuits to be performed directly inside the fiber, which allows for more compact, efficient systems.
While some fibers have been made with a silicon core, the Clemson version is the first to employ standard mass-production methods, bringing them closer to commercial reality.
Right now the amount of energy lost when the lightwaves move down this silicon fiber is not better than for other fibers at the longer wavelengths, but Ballato expects energy losses to decline significantly with continued optimization.