Scientists use bubbles to future-proof fibre optics

November 25, 2008
Head of Electronic Engineering Professor Graham Town.

(PhysOrg.com) -- They're tiny, are rarely thought about by the people who use them, but are essential to how we access information, communicate with one another and live our everyday lives.

Optical fibres make it possible for us to use the technologies we take for granted such as the Internet and our mobile phones, and now new research from Macquarie University may hold the key to more cost-effective, energy-efficient, durable and easy-to-use fibre optics in the future.

A team of fibre optics specialists from the University's Department of Electronic Engineering has been developing a new prototype for fibre optics which is made from a "bubbly" polymer fibre.

Traditionally, glass has been used to produce optical fibres, but the equipment needed in order to process the glass at high temperatures makes this an expensive option.

While several groups around the world are investigating polymer as a potential future replacement, the Macquarie team is the only group to develop and test a system which uses bubbles within the polymer to guide and scatter light.

Head of Electronic Engineering Professor Graham Town said most researchers investigating microstructured polymer fibres were using stacked tubes or small holes drilled in a polymer preform, subsequently drawn down to micron-sized dimensions to guide light.

"Our technique involves heating the polymer to form bubbles - it's easier and cheaper than assembling tubes or drilling," Town said.

"This could be a cheap, clean and relatively fast way of developing an optical network - and the production process uses significantly less energy than if we were working with glass."

Deliberately leaky fibres are ideal for transmitting data over short distances. Another advantage of the bubbly polymer is that it allows light out and in, which makes it potentially very useful for sensing applications.

"This type of polymer optical fibre may prove useful for distributed sensing of materials such as toxic or explosive gases," Town said.

Provided by Macquarie University

Explore further: Fighting climate change with membrane-based cement technology

Related Stories

Fighting climate change with membrane-based cement technology

June 12, 2015

The cement industry is one of the largest sources worldwide of carbon emissions, accounting for around five per cent of global emissions. New technologies being developed by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology ...

Living in a material world

June 1, 2015

A pop-up, waterproof, solar-powered shelter. It sounds like science fiction, but a new multi-disciplinary research team is making this dream a reality. The 'Architextile' project combines architecture, textiles and material ...

Phototherapy device for neonatal jaundice

May 15, 2015

O-blanket is an innovative phototherapy device for neonatal jaundice, consisting of a light-emitting fabric covered by a wrapper made of top, reflective and back fabrics. The lightemitting fabric is woven from side-emitting ...

Recommended for you

Power grid forecasting tool reduces costly errors

July 30, 2015

Accurately forecasting future electricity needs is tricky, with sudden weather changes and other variables impacting projections minute by minute. Errors can have grave repercussions, from blackouts to high market costs. ...

Microsoft describes hard-to-mimic authentication gesture

August 1, 2015

Photos. Messages. Bank account codes. And so much moreā€”sit on a person's mobile device, and the question is, how to secure them without having to depend on lengthy password codes of letters and numbers. Vendors promoting ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.