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New Methodology Demonstrates Improved Data Transfer for Semiconductor Fiber Optics


Researchers at Penn State University have created a new method to improve semiconductor fiber optics. This method could conceivably change the way we transmit data across the globe and significantly cut down on the cost at the same time.

This new method uses semiconductor optical fibers in place of silica-based fibers. Silica-based fibers (also known as glass) are the standard material used in this type of technology — but that could be changing very soon. Silica has a number of factors working against it, primarily that it can only transmit electronic data converted to light data. To do this requires external electronic devices, which require huge amounts of electricity to function properly; additionally, they’re extremely costly. All of this could change if we switch over to semiconductor optical fibers.

The Penn State team on the other hand, believes that smart semiconductor-filled fibers are the solution to these issues. With the proper programming, they could hypothetically convert the data themselves, with no outside support or assistance from other devices. This would drastically reduce the cost of this technology. They’re still working on perfecting this methodology, but believe their research has them on the right path.

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“Glass technology has taken us this far. The ambitious idea that Badding and my group had about 10 years ago was that glass is great, but can we do more by using the numerous electronically and optically active materials other than plain glass. That’s when we began trying to embed semiconductors into glass fiber.”

Venkatraman Gopalan, professor of materials science and engineering

The silicon fibers in this new technology smooths out the imperfections normally found in the crystals of silicon fibers. These imperfections could dramatically slow down the speed and efficiency of transmissions. And this embedding technology can be used for a whole host of materials which could end up being far superior to glass.

Unfortunately, this research takes time. It could well be another decade before we get to enjoy the benefits of this research. But the Penn State team has made important strides in this technology, and brings us closer to the day we no longer need to rely on glass for the transferring of data.

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