Rethinking Optical Fiber: New Demands, Old Glasses


  • John Ballato,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, The Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET), Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
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  • Peter Dragic

    1. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois
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From a materials perspective optical fibers are victims of their own success. The advent of the laser, 50 yr ago, coupled with an insatiable demand for information enabled by light-based communications, ushered in a golden age of glass science and engineering. It is somewhat ironic that the staggering ubiquity of information today, which is carried globally and almost instantaneously via optical fibers, is enabled largely by one material—silica—into which only a few components are added. The richness of the Periodic Table has largely been forgotten. The purpose of this study was to rethink the materials that can be used to make commercially relevant optical fibers and describe the extraordinary properties, with stimulated Brillouin scattering being the primary exemplar, of fibers made from otherwise ordinary materials. In particular, this study focuses on the use of the molten core approach to optical fiber fabrication and the novel yet practical fibers that can be produced. This study is purposely provocative and aims to reassert the centrality (and simplicity and beauty) of glass science as the best approach to meet future challenges for high-performance optical fibers.