IIT and CNR investigate the future of optical fibre
A team of researchers from the Italian Institute of Technology and the National Research Council, has conducted a study, published in Nature Communications, which could lead to the development of a new type of optical fibre able to transmit information through disorder, create more resistant and cost-effective communication systems and newly developed biomedical instruments.
The interaction between electric field and material produces a change both in the electric field and in the material subject to this field: all solid, liquid or gaseous materials that do not conduct electricity are called dielectric materials. The glass that we normally use is a homogeneous dielectric system and is the best medium to transmit light since it is transparent.
“Inhomogeneous”, opaque systems do not permit the full passage of light and if the inhomogeneity is similar to the wavelength of the light, light can be trapped in the middle instead of propagating as expected based on Anderson Localization that demonstrated that, in the presence of disorder, the electronic wave function becomes spatially localized with exponentially decreasing tails.
A recent study, however, has demonstrated that opacity can allow the transport of information, particularly in optical fibres, the backbone of our telecommunications system, especially in “single-mode” communication, that is, the most sophisticated means to transmit light used to bring Internet broadband to homes worldwide.
Researchers from Sapienza University’s Physics Department, CNLS-IIT and Nanotec-CNR have studied and designed a special type of opacity that would allow the identification of a large number of single-mode transmission channels in a single optical fibre, laying the foundation for a new means of information transmission with the transported light confined in disordered tubes, opening the way to a communication system with greater capacity, resistance to damage and lower production costs.
‘The position of the transmission channels in a disordered system is not known a priori and our experimental approach allows us to identify them’, said Marco Leonetti, researcher at Nanotec-CNR and CNLS-IIT and author of the study.
According to the authors, this study lays the foundation for a new generation of optical fibre able to transport information through disorder, which could be used for the manufacture of extremely thin (and, therefore, less invasive) endoscopes and with higher optical resolution.