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Scientists Embed Electronic Components Into Optical Fibers 34

Posted by Soulskill
from the photons-and-electrons-living-together dept.
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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Scientists Embed Electronic Components Into Optical Fibers

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  • by johanwanderer (1078391) on Monday February 06, 2012 @05:43PM (#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.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @05:53PM (#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.

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

        • 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.
          • by EdIII (1114411)

            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?

            • 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'
              • by EdIII (1114411)

                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 lo

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by ibsteve2u (1184603)
          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 c
    • How would you power such repeaters?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      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 fib

    • by dimko (1166489)

      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.

  • too bad Google just spent all that money on plain ol' fiber.
  • cheaper? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phriedom (561200) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:10PM (#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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • by Spamalope (91802)

      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

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