University of Bath discovery cuts cost of hollow-core optical fibers

January 18, 2008, Bath, England--A new discovery, described today in the journal Optics Express, cuts the production time of hollow-core optical fibers from around a week to a single day, reducing the overall cost of fabrication. Initial tests show that the fiber is also superior in virtually every respect to previous versions of the technology, making it an important step in the development of new technologies that use light instead of electrical circuits to carry information.

January 18, 2008, Bath, England--A new discovery, described today in the journal Optics Express, cuts the production time of hollow-core optical fibers from around a week to a single day, reducing the overall cost of fabrication. Initial tests show that the fiber is also superior in virtually every respect to previous versions of the technology, making it an important step in the development of new technologies that use light instead of electrical circuits to carry information.

The problem in developing hollow-core fibers is that only a special sort of optical fiber can guide light down an air hole. They use a two-dimensional pattern of tiny holes in the glass around the core to trap the light within the core itself. The highly detailed nature of these fibers means that they have been difficult to fabricate and they can only work for a limited range of wavelengths.

However, the new procedure developed by the Bath photonics group shows how a tiny change to these fibers--narrowing the wall of glass around the large central hole by just 100 nm--broadens the range of wavelengths which can be transmitted. They achieved this by omitting some of the most difficult steps in the fabrication procedure, reducing the time required to make the fibers from around a week to a single day.

The improved fiber was developed as part of a European Commission-funded Framework 6 project 'NextGenPCF' for applications in gas sensing. However, the superior performance of the fiber means that it could have a significant impact in a range of fields such as laser design and pulsed beam delivery, spectroscopy, biomedical and surgical optics, laser machining, the automotive industry and space science.

For more information, visit www.bath.ac.uk/news.

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