Fibre feat is a load of thin air

May 4, 2001

An optical fibre being developed at the University of Southampton looks set to improve telecommunications networks.

The fibre should carry more data than existing optical fibres and could speed the routing of light signals through networks.

Tanya Monro, from Southampton's Optoelectronics Research Centre, said: "We design and make these fibres to have optical properties you can't have in conventional fibres."

In solid-glass optical fibres used in telecommunications, data in the form of pulses of light zig-zag down the central core, reflecting off the boundary between the core and the cladding surrounding it.

Over the length of the fibre, these discrete pulses tend to spread out. This limits the speed at which data can be fed into the fibre - too fast and the pulses merge together at the other end, which makes the data unreadable.

The Southampton fibres have a solid central core region that is surrounded by air holes. Because they confine light of shorter wavelengths more tightly in the core than light of longer wavelengths, they can be designed to minimise dispersion over a broad range of wavelengths, allowing fast data transmission and the possibility of sending more data down a single fibre.

Details: www.orc.soton.ac.uk

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