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'Optical fibre' Made Out Of Thin Air

Dave Knott (2917251) writes | about 2 months ago

1

Dave Knott (2917251) writes "Scientists from the University of Maryland say they have turned thin air into an "optical fibre" that can transmit and amplify light signals without the need for any cables. As described in the research, this was accomplished by generating a laser with its light split into a ring of multiple beams forming a pipe. Very short and powerful pulses from the laser are used to heat the air molecules along the beam extremely quickly. Such rapid heating produces sound waves that take about a microsecond to converge to the centre of the pipe, creating a high-density area surrounded by a low-density area left behind in the wake of the laser beams. The lower density region of air surrounding the centre of the air waveguide has a lower refractive index, keeping the light focused, and allowing the higher-density region (with its correspondingly higher index of refraction) to act like an optical fibre. The findings, reported in the journal Optica, have applications in long range laser communications, high-resolution topographic mapping, air pollution and climate change research, and could also be used by the military to make laser weapons."

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Short and straight only? (1)

Shatrat (855151) | about 2 months ago | (#47515645)

I'm having a hard time seeing any communication use for this. Surely the range is going to be very limited and it can only fire in a straight line. If that's the case I'm not sure what the benefit is over just firing a laser straight at the receiver.
Air does have a lower refractive index than glass which has latency benefits, but 'Hollow Core' fiber is in development which would provide the lower latency without requiring line of sight.

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