Monday, 24 Nov, 2008 Science

Leaky Optic Fibers Full of Holes Open Doors to Lots of Opportunities


A scientist from Australia is currently working on the development of a leaky optic fiber full of holes. He believes that his invention could be used in a variety of applications ranging from refrigerator lighting to office communications.

According to Professor Graham Town, who leads the Department of Electronic Engineering at Macquarie University, the bubble-filled polymer may be a big step forward in the making of optic fibers. He says that his optic bubble-filled polymer fiber is inexpensive and less energy in needed to produce it.

It is worth mentioning that usually glass is used to manufacture optical fibers, which are quite expensive due to the equipment used to process the glass at high temperatures. Town said that in most cases the development of optic fibers involves applying a piece of polymer preform featuring small holes, which is later drawn to make thin fibers. Such long air tubes usually have a crystalline structure which guides the light along the fiber. Town claims he managed to create an optic fiber featuring irregular air bubbles. His fiber is cheaper and simpler.

Polymers soak up moisture from the air and in case the moisture is not cleaned up prior to the heating, it leads to the creation of bubbles while the material softens and the water boils. Afterwards the bubbly polymer is transformed into a fiber which has a width of about 100 micrometers. The fiber is created by drawing the material down from a tower. Bubbles on the material a spread randomly, having different diameters from 1 to 15 micrometers. They are elongated through the fiber drawing process, which, according to Town creates "very long air holes with a beginning and an end," reports ABC News.

"Those air holes will guide light down the fiber. But when you get to a beginning or an end you get scattering, so the light is partially guided and partially scattered," he said. Thus light can enter and leave the fiber, creating a variety of commercial potentials.

"The bubbles provide a simple and inexpensive method for localized coupling of light in and out of the fiber. The latter property could be particularly useful in sensing applications," Town says.

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