Low-cost laser-written optical connectors and waveguides aim to bring optical data transmission into mass markets

Dec. 11, 2013
Berlin, Germany--The Berlin high-tech startup TOWI Solutions -- a spin-off of the Technical University Berlin (TUB) -- has commercialized a direct optical volume printing (DOVP) approach to the fabrication of optical waveguides and couplers that the company says can significantly lower purchase and operation costs of optical connectors.

Berlin, Germany--The Berlin high-tech startup TOWI Solutions -- a spin-off of the Technical University Berlin (TUB) -- has commercialized a direct optical volume printing (DOVP) approach to the fabrication of optical waveguides and couplers that the company says can significantly lower purchase and operation costs of optical connectors. The technology is intended for the mass production of low-cost optical components; TOWI has a patent pending on the technology. The company notes that the market for optical connectors is slated to increase by up to 100% in the next three years.

TOWI's couplers are made using an epoxy-based polymer. Because it tolerates temperatures greater than 230°C and can be metallized, electro-optical components can be directly mounted on the coupler. No extra outside lenses to collimate the beam or mirrors to realize a 90° bend need be used, as the required optics can be embedded in the epoxy, says TOWI.

Round waveguides, tapers
The 3D structuring approach allows the creation of waveguides with diameters from 5 µm to more than 100 µm by changing the beam size, which can be done gradually to create tapers. Overlapping beams create a cross-shaped intensity profile that produces a nearly circular waveguide cross section with a refractive-index difference similar to that between the core and cladding of a conventional single-mode optical fiber. Efficient tapers from multimode to single-mode (SMF-28) fiber size can be created.

TOWI says the method can be easily adopted for mass production and is scalable to large volumes. Especially targeted are data centers that need large numbers of low-cost, reliable optical connectors and fibers.

The team, consisting of Jonas Gortner, Udo Panoscha, and Rico Henze, is located at the TUB in the Institute of Optics and Atomic Physics. TOWI is funded by an EXIST research transfer grant. This funding program from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) promotes university research teams working on outstanding research-based startup projects. In March 2013, TOWI Solutions won the German startup competition "IKT Innovativ," which is endowed with 30,000 Euros in prize money. The team is also supported by the internal startup service of the TUB.

For more information, see http://towi-sol.com/



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