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The Reg meets Nobel prize winning Über-boffin

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Plastic tubes could replace twisted pair cabling to become a way of delivering high bandwidth Internet access to the desktop.

That's the view of boffins at Lucent Bell Labs who are developing plastic technologies as a more flexible and cheaper transmission medium to fibre optic connections over short links.

Horst Stormer, a fellow at Lucent's Bell Labs, and winner of the Nobel prize for physics in 1998, said plastic could be more easily bent than glass fibre optic cable and was likely to be cheaper to manufacture.

Unfortunately plastic also absorbs more emitted radiation than glass cabling so distances over 100m are not practical because of this attenuation effect.

Lucent is also experimenting with molecular lasers which is believes may prove cheaper to produce than conventional semiconductor lasers.

These might sound radical ideas but Stormer, whilst freely admitting he has not always correctly predicted the latest technological developments, predicts that photonic devices based on plastics and "plastic electronics" are on the horizon.

In March, scientists at Bell Labs announced that they had created the world's first superconductor fabricated from plastic. The plastic is described by Lucent as an inexpensive material that could be widely used in, for example, quantum computing devices and superconducting electronics.

Boffin note

Stormer shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1998 for his work on the fractional quantum Hall effect. The effect, which is bizarre even in the world of quantum physics, means that many electrons together can create a smaller particle.

We don't confess to understand this completely but Stormer's work as a Bell Labs fellow and with Columbia University, New York is aimed understanding the behaviour of electrons on an atomic scale, which is needed to develop future devices based on quantum mechanics.

Stormer shared his Nobel award with Dan Tsui and Robert Laughlin. ®

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