Boffins embed electronics into fibres
Hope for cheaper telecoms kit
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. ®
On the upside...
... easier connecting and all that. On the downside, differing standards and vendor lock-in. As long as the premium for the latter doesn't exceed the savings from the former, there's a niche for customers to shoot their own feet. Then again, you can always cut the fancypants parts off and bring out the fibre welding kit... as long as you know how to run it.
Not just lock-in...
While such a solution can be nice for a fibre patch cable (that you buy already "terminated" with such opto-electronic integration), it is quite useless for longer runs where you have to lay the fibre for hundreds of meters (or feet, o furlongs, or whatever) and then cut it and connect it. You should have the fibre pre-cut and pre-terminated at the right lenght, before you buy it.
Southampton does it again
Differeing standards? Lockins? I have worked a little with fibre equipment and there is always a fibre in modules, this lowers the cost of that stage. It should also increase performance.
This is module level not system level. To connect a laser directly to a 2,000 km fibre would be risky at best.
You may also care to think about the all optical amplifier - invented at Southampton.
BTW it is called fusing not welding.