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Scientists Embed Electronic Components Into Optical Fibers

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the photons-and-electrons-living-together dept.

Network 34

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at the Universities of Southampton and Penn State have found a way to embed electronic components into optical fibers, in a breakthrough that could lead to the creation of super high-speed telecommunications networks. Rather than trying to merge flat chips with round optical fibers, the team of scientists used high-pressure chemistry techniques to deposit semiconducting materials layer by layer directly into tiny holes in optical fibers. This bypasses the need to integrate fiber-optics onto a chip, and means that the data signal never has to leave the fiber."

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34 comments

Sadly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38946601)

nobody will be able to afford it... why not focus of making fiber optic cables cheaper?

Re:Sadly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38946661)

Fiber optic is cheaper than copper. It's the transceivers that are expensive.

Re:Sadly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38946675)

commoditizing fiber isn't in anyone's best interest.

All along the fiber, or just at the end? (3, Insightful)

johanwanderer (1078391) | more than 2 years ago | (#38946641)

So, do they embed impurities all along the fiber, or just at the very end, where it gets snipped off and polished before being attached?

How much of the signal is "processed" (i.e. lost) by the electronics if they are sprinkled all through the fiber?

Interesting stuff.

Re:All along the fiber, or just at the end? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38946745)

at the very end, where it gets snipped off and polished

The circuits are embedded near the ends, although this does tend to weaken the fibers. A conditioner is used to prevent split ends and promote healthy growth. The fibers become glossy and conduct great looking optical solitons. Essential oils also prevent tangles and give your fibers that extra bounce.

Re:All along the fiber, or just at the end? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38951341)

What's next, makeup for your OS?

"Maybe it's Mandriva... Maybe it's Maybelline!"

Re:All along the fiber, or just at the end? (1)

jamiesan (715069) | more than 2 years ago | (#38953105)

If you use the right Chanel, you can keep your fibers looking young and vibrant.

Re:All along the fiber, or just at the end? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38960139)

I have my router set to Chanel Number 6.

Built in repeaters? (2)

JazzXP (770338) | more than 2 years ago | (#38946665)

I'm wondering if this means they could have repeaters built in to the fibre itself. Could be pretty cool.

Re:Built in repeaters? (2)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38946767)

Inline wiretapping! Happy, happy - joy, joy! I remember once upon a time opto-electric "isolators" were used to ensure that various and sundry bad guys couldn't pick up intel via RF emissions...and a lot of people still think fiber presents the most physically secure media. That might be even more of an obsolete perspective now that a seemingly innocent fiber bundle will be able to have all kinds of "goodies" in it...

Re:Built in repeaters? (2)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 2 years ago | (#38946879)

Yeah, you don't need anything new for that. Remember when all those ships mysteriously kept running over cables with their anchors? Yeah, there's probably extra mysterious boxes sitting along those routes now.

Re:Built in repeaters? (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947129)

lollll...yeah, the technology is evolved to keep up with the evolution of technology. [zdnet.com]

But in America, you don't need to take all of the risks and spend all of that money anymore; the Patriot Act lets you stick "block boxes" in right at the cable heads.

Re:Built in repeaters? (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947329)

The Patriot Act allows you to walk into a data center and threaten the owners and operators with the loss of their freedoms if they don't immediately assume the proper position (bent over at the correct angle with their hands around their ankles for maximum insertion) and severe punishments for even talking about the incident.

Has a surprisingly similar series of events to gang rape in prisons.

So why go through all the hassle of intercepting when you can go straight to the source now with no resistance?

Re:Built in repeaters? (2)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947811)

I think it inevitable that the Patriot Act will eventually be used as a political weapon. We've already seen politicians go to extraordinary - even criminal - lengths to involve the American people in war; we've seen Congress vouchsafe incarcerating Americans forever and ever without trial with merely the accusation of terrorism; we've seen the power of "Executive Orders" abused ever more often; we've see "extraordinary renditions" used to violate international law and the sovereignty of other nations; we've seen those whose jokes on social networks are misunderstood kicked out of America [slashdot.org] .

The logical - evolutionary, if you will - next step is a political party whose leaders became infamous for demanding that Federal departments "stay on-message" when they were in the White House, for example, expanding that philosophy and using the aforementioned powers - whether Constitutional, blessed by Congress, or ignored by Congress - to silence those who criticize their actions.

Re:Built in repeaters? (2)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#38948489)

The logical - evolutionary, if you will - next step is a political party whose leaders became infamous for demanding that Federal departments "stay on-message" when they were in the White House, for example, expanding that philosophy and using the aforementioned powers - whether Constitutional, blessed by Congress, or ignored by Congress - to silence those who criticize their actions.

That's not evolution. That's repeating history. Which is why it is so sad and frustrating when people cannot remember history and what happened with the FBI in the 60's and counter cultural movement. Hoover was fucking insane and the best example of somebody in government that is that last person you want in government.

It's even more important to remember the true history of our government because it is just made up of people. The people and their behavior is the same, the tools have evolved. It's a lot easier to create a file on you these days and harass the crap out of you when you don't "stay on message" as you put it.

For people who think that is a bit tin-foil-hattish, they can read in Hoover's own words how much he hated MLK. Judging those events now tells us something.

Re:Built in repeaters? (1, Interesting)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947209)

And I know I wasn't clear, but my point was the technology detailed in this article will make it possible to defeat the most well-trained network and security administrators out there: Won't do you much good to have absolute control of your firewalls and proxies - or to use encryption for all external communications - if your in-house fiber plant is reading your internal communications in the clear and then "talking" around your security measures. And even if you have transparent cable trays so that you can readily detect the insertion of a splice-and-tap, you won't catch it...the technology will be a part of the fiber itself....all bundled in the factory insulation.

Re:Built in repeaters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947579)

Oh yeah? Well my tinfoil hat goes up to 12.

Re:Built in repeaters? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38946783)

How would you power such repeaters?

Re:Built in repeaters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38946841)

solar panels

Re:Built in repeaters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38948677)

ooh, that's easy. optical fibres are so full of light, you just insert microscopic SOLAR PANELS to run the rest of the inserted solar equipment! ;-)

Re:Built in repeaters? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38946795)

Well, the conventional solution for where you'd want inline repeaters is a section of (typically Erbium) doped fibre (same stuff used in fibre lasers), it's optically pumped at a shorter wavelength and amplifies the light in the fibre over broad band (typically 10s of nm). It's not clear to me that repeaters have any real advantage -- if you don't extinguish the existing light, it broadens your pulses (due to the finite bandwidth of the repeater), and it would presumably be electrically powered (whereas fibre amplifiers can be optically powered by a source at the end of the fibre bundle).

Re:Built in repeaters? (1)

dimko (1166489) | more than 2 years ago | (#38946891)

I'm wondering if this means they could have repeaters built in to the fibre itself. Could be pretty cool.

No, you still need energy to power up repeater. With this device you can put cable, and if I understand english correctly here, you will be able more easilly add new branch to existing infrastructure, probably without/with minimal interruption to existing end users. I am guessing device will still need power.

Re:Built in repeaters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38967437)

If you just want to extend the distance the signal travels, you don't need a repeater. You can use an optical amplifier [wikipedia.org] instead. Very interesting use of nonlinear optics [wikipedia.org] .

oh darn. (1)

AtomicAdam (959649) | more than 2 years ago | (#38946755)

too bad Google just spent all that money on plain ol' fiber.

Re:oh darn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38946801)

is it actually already deployed? I imagine the bulk of the cost is laying the pipe for the wires to go through anyway. seems like they've got easy ways to suck up old wires and redeploy simply.

Re:oh darn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947243)

Yes, I was thinking the same about Australia's nationwide $100 billion dollar rollout thats currently underway...

Suck my optic fiber (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38946779)

I fucked CmdrTaco with my 10" long, 6" round optic fiber last night. Then i deposited my semen in the walls of his anus.

OLT/ONT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38946831)

I could see this as being useful in the telecom industry for cheap/low power OLT/ONT for FTTH.

Light Search (-1, Troll)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 2 years ago | (#38946881)

Well, at least the network cables at Penn State can be made of something transparent, fault-tolerant, and ethical...ok, ethical didn't fit, but I was trying to make a point. Work with me here.

I know it's slightly off-topic, but Jesus Christ...between Penn State, Indiana, and having attended UNC myself I wouldn't send my pet rat to state school, or maybe any R1 school, much less my child. Let's not let some bitchin bandwidth distract from the fact that they're a morally bankrupt institution which takes public money for its research, pumps its own money into sports, and has the overal ethical profile of a sociopathic chimpanzee.

Re:Light Search (1)

getto man d (619850) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947431)

...pumps its own money into sports...

Ethics aside, school sports are highly profitable. Penn State's profit (from football alone) was ~50 million. I think it's safe to say that many D1 schools can fund their sports programs easily (who knows about Penn State's future as they will lose future revenue).

http://money.cnn.com/2011/11/10/news/companies/penn_state_football_scandal/index.htm [cnn.com]

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/30/the-most-profitable-colle_n_802810.html#s217317&title=University_of_Texas [huffingtonpost.com]

cheaper? (4, Interesting)

phriedom (561200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38946917)

I don't understand this part: “Moreover, while conventional chip fabrication requires multimillion dollar clean room facilities, our process can be performed with simple equipment that costs much less." They can only be replacing the physical layer step, the laser or the photo-diode, if they don't need a multimillion dollar equipment. They will still need a conventional chip for the amplifier or laser-driver. So their claim that the signal won't have to leave the fiber is misleading right off the bat. Then I have to wonder why it would be cheaper to grow a laser (and test it) one-at-a-time on the end of a fiber instead of on a wafer. Okay, you skip packaging, but the market has already decided (for the moment) that packaged lasers are cheaper than putting a bare die directly into an integrated module. Where's the savings?

Re:cheaper? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38948063)

Consider embedding LCD Crystals into the fiber.

The laser is constantly on but the crystals are beating, allowing light in at a specific angle so it hits a specific exit point at a specific frequency for the installed patch.

Lets say you can get 10-20 channels; that's a lot of bandwidth if we're talking OC Speeds. And realistically, it'd be a $10k dongle and $100k box you'd plug into your existing fiber.

Re:cheaper? (1)

phriedom (561200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38948751)

That is absurd.

Re:cheaper? (1)

Spamalope (91802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38953641)

I don't understand this part: Where's the savings?

New applications may be the goal, rather than savings. If you can make the receiver end easy to tie to a chip when it's packaged, you can replace a great many pins with a fiber buss running into the chip package itself. Replace the North and South bridge CPU interconnects with fiber and the pinouts just shrank, traces and RF problems disappeared from the motherboard. If they can make it practical, I'd expect it in big iron first but it's still a promising direction for research.

If the semiconductors don't use much light, you could make the buss multicast. Pick up the signal at each card slot with local to the slot signal amps and you're well on your way to making much of the rest of the motherboard communications fiber based.

You could go a bit further and make the interconnect generalized. Make a fiber cable with a laser diode bonded at one and, an the receiver semiconductors built in on the other. Bond that to a second cable facing the other way, and you have a plug in data cable that could be used in much the same way as sata cables are now. Card slots could be relegated to providing power, with the data communications working through optical cables.

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