Thursday, 3 September 2015

Who needs ultrapure glass ?

The birth of optical fibers as an optical communication channel goes along with the development of ultrapure glass. In the late 60ths scientists like Charles Kao had envisaged that optical fibers made of ultrapure glass could have been produced and properly designed to allow the transmission of data over long distances. Fiber material properties set today the lowest attenuation boundary of standard optical fibers. However today hollow core antiresonant fibers can allow a glass overlap of the optical power travelling in the optical fiber of less than 0.01% !! Then why shall we use ultrapure silica glass in order to transmit data at the highest possible speed (low latency) within a hollow core optical fiber?  Do we really need silica glass? Can we (in principle) achieve even better optical guidance in a hollow core fiber by using a different type of glass? Maybe that glass will be cheaper, broadly available and easier to manufacture? Maybe it will be also easier to use in combination with other standard optical technologies?

In this famous movie a scientist (Christopher Lloyd) builds a “time machine” which is operated by the nuclear energy generated by Plutonium. However, after travelling to the future (30 years), he finds out that this machine can be simply powered by using garbage! What about finding out that the optical fibres of the future will be made by the glass we commonly find in the dustbin of our house?