Integrated optical fibres to improve electronics

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Integrated optical fibres to improve electronics

A newly developed process for the insertion of semiconductors into optical fibres is expected to deliver faster, more efficient electronic devices.

Building on previous work that combined optical fibres with polycrystalline materials to create a fibre that also has electronic characteristics, an international team of scientists has developed a method of growing a single-crystal semiconductor inside the tunnel of a hollow optical fibre.

The device adds new electronic capabilities to optical fibres, whose performance in electronic devices typically is degraded by the interface between the fibre and the device.

"For most applications, single-crystal semiconductor materials have better performance than polycrystalline and amorphous materials," said researcher John Badding, who is an associate professor of chemistry at Penn State University.

"We have now shown that our technique of encasing a single-crystal semiconductor within an optical fibre results in greater functionality of the optical fiber, as well."

To build an optical fibre that is integrated with a single-crystal semiconductor, the research team developed a multi-step approach involving the interaction of gold and a silicon compound under high pressure.

Findings are expected to lead to further improvements in the characteristics of optical fibres, which are used in a wide range of technologies that employ light, including telecommunications, medicine, computing, and remote-sensing devices.

But there remain more improvements to be made to optical fibres, researchers say.

"At present, we still have electrical switches at both ends of the optical fibre," Badding said.

"If we can get to the point where the electrical signal never leaves the fibre, it will be faster and more efficient."
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