Novel optical fibers transmit high-quality images

Feb 25, 2014
Novel optical fibers transmit high-quality images
The images show the comparison between the simulated image transport through the researchers new optical fiber (top) with a commercially available endoscopy imaging fiber (bottom). Credit: Salman Karbasi

After having recently discovered a new way to propagate multiple beams of light through a single strand of optical fiber, engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) now have found that their novel fiber architecture can transmit images with a quality that is comparable or better than the current commercial endoscopy imaging fibers.

Because of this, the work has potential not only in next-generation high-speed communication, but also biomedical imaging.

The work is published today in the journal Nature Communications.

In conventional optical fibers, which are the backbone of the Internet, only one spatial channel of traverses the fiber. In order to transmit more data, Arash Mafi and Salman Karbasi last year created an using a method that is unique among existing multicore optical fibers.

Mafi, an associate professor of electrical engineering, and graduate research associate Karbasi harnessed a phenomenon called "Anderson localization" to design an optical fiber with a strong scattering mechanism that traps a beam of light as it traverses the fiber. The work was done in collaboration with Karl Koch, a scientist with Corning Inc.

The fiber consists of two randomly distributed polymers, which scatter the light. The fiber's disordered interior causes a beam of light passing through it to freeze laterally, accommodating multiple beams.

"I knew it would transport images," says Mafi. "What I didn't expect was that the resolution and contrast would be so good."

The team loads an image 30 microns wide – about one-third the width of a human hair – into the fiber. At the other end, a lens projects an enlarged image onto a screen. The optical fiber provides a direct one-to-one image transfer, Mafi says, with less pixelation and higher contrast.

"The beauty and distinction of this is that our design guides the light everywhere, not through individual cores," he says. "What really surprised us is that the transported image's high quality is achieved because of – not in spite of – the high level of disorder in the fiber."

Additional co-authors on the paper are Ryan Frazier, a UWM undergraduate student, and Thomas Hawkins and John Ballato of Clemson University.

The next step is to improve the building process in order to lower the loss of information.

Mafi and Karbasi theorize that one way to improve the quality of transported images is to use glass with randomly distributed air holes in the fiber architecture, rather than using polymers. There has been some preliminary progress in constructing glass fibers by the team, and further improvements are expected from the collaboration with Ballato's team at Clemson, experts in glass fiber fabrication.

Their fiber design is the first practical application of "Anderson localization," which is named after physicist Philip W. Anderson, who first identified the curious containment of electrons in a highly disordered medium, an observation for which he shared the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Explore further: Breakthrough in nonlinear optics research

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers create novel optical fibers

Apr 17, 2013

(Phys.org) —Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) have found a new mechanism to transmit light through optical fibers. Their discovery marks the first practical application of a Nobel-Prize-winning ...

Researchers make optical fibers from common materials

Aug 13, 2012

Clemson researchers are taking common materials to uncommon places by transforming easily obtainable and affordable materials into fiber. Their findings are published in Nature Photonics, the world's top jo ...

Low-cost multi-fiber optical connector developed

Feb 03, 2014

Fujitsu Laboratories and Furukawa Electric today announced that they have collaborated to develop a new multi-fiber optical connector that enjoins and aligns multiple optical fibers for optical interconnects.

Recommended for you

Squeezing out new science from material interfaces

13 minutes ago

With more than five times the thermal conductivity of copper, diamond is the ultimate heat spreader. But the slow rate of heat flow into diamond from other materials limits its use in practice. In particular, ...

The dark side of cosmology

4 hours ago

It's a beautiful theory: the standard model of cosmology describes the universe using just six parameters. But it is also strange. The model predicts that dark matter and dark energy – two mysterious entities ...

Studying effects of target 'tents' on NIF

5 hours ago

A systematic study of the effects on National Ignition Facility (NIF) implosions of the ultra-thin mounting membranes that support target capsules inside NIF hohlraums was reported by LLNL researchers in ...

Mathematicians model fluids at the mesoscale

5 hours ago

When it comes to boiling water—or the phenomenon of applying heat to a liquid until it transitions to a gas—is there anything left for today's scientists to study? The surprising answer is, yes, quite ...

User comments : 0

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.