3D printed fibre optics makes headway10 Jul 2015
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However, using the new additive manufacturing technique, the researchers will be able to form complex fibre structures from ultra-pure glass powder, layer-by-layer, gradually building up the shape to create a preform several tens of centimetres in lengths. There are numerous challenges including the high melting temperature of the glass (over 2,000°C in case of silica); the need for precise control of dopants, refractive index profiles and waveguide geometry; and the need for transitions between the layers to be smooth, otherwise the properties of the resultant fibre will be altered.
As part of the project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the researchers will be working with three companies: ES Technology (Oxford, U.K.), a provider of laser material processing systems; Fibercore (Southampton, U.K.) a supplier of speciality fibre; and SG Controls (Cambridge, U.K.) a leading manufacturer of optical fibre equipment.
"We hope our work will open up a route to manufacture novel fibre structures in silica and other glasses for a wide range of applications, covering telecommunications, sensing, lab-in-a-fibre, metamaterial fibre and high-power lasers," says Sahu. "This is something that has never been tried before and we are excited about starting this project."
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