Japanese scientists have built fiber optics from plastic • The Register


Boffins at Keio University of Japan believes he has built viable optical fibers from plastic.

Optical fibers are most often made of glass and are, as evidenced by the impressive data transfer capacity of submarine cables, mind-blowing.

But if the boffins have made optical fibers very resistant, they have not been able to respond to all the fragilities of glass.

Enter Professor Yasuhiro Koike of the University’s Photonics Research Institute, who today announced that they have created polymeric optical fibers capable of carrying data at 53 Gbps – and doing so while bending. Critically, the materials are said to have less need for forward error correction than conventional fibers. This means less capacity is spent on error correction overhead, allowing more signal and less noise and / or noise suppression effort.

There is of course a caveat: this technology cannot transport data over long distances. Boffins are more comfortable using polymer fibers to carry data a few tens of meters away.

But that’s enough distance to run polymer fiber optics in a data center. Or a car – an environment in which components are subjected to the kind of vibrations and shocks that disturb glass.

That’s not to say that glass optical fibers can’t bend: they can, and some bend-insensitive fibers are designed to be especially strong. But even bend insensitive fibers have their limits and there are clearly many applications where highly bent fibers will come in handy – the Keio University announcement mentions industrial robots and describes their swivel members as potential applications for them. plastic fibers.

Professor Koike will detail the technology at a conference in November. ®


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