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Boffins embed electronics into fibres

Hope for cheaper telecoms kit

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University of Southampton and Penn State researchers have demonstrated a technique to embed electronics into optical fibres, which if commercialised would enable simpler and cheaper telecommuniations kit.

The idea, according to head of the university’s Optical Research Centre Dr Pier Sazio, is to build an electro-optical junction into the fibre. This would mean that instead of a time- and labour-intensive process to align the end of a fibre with on-chip receivers, the fibre could be connected to electronics with a simple electronic connection.

“We have managed to build the junction – the active boundary where all the electronic action takes place – right into the fibre,” Dr Sazio said.

Between the plug on the front of an optical device like a high-speed switch and the electronics, there’s a difficult fabrication process involved: the cylindrical fibre has to be aligned with a receiver, the fibre is very small, and the waveguides on chips are even smaller.

To create the on-fibre junction, the researchers used high-pressure chemistry to deposit semiconducting layers directly into holes in the optical fibres. The work is to be published in Nature Photonics, which is presumably why the boffins’ media announcement didn’t go so far as to identify the geometries they’re working with. ®

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