High pressure reduces signal loss in optical fibers

October 20, 2020 //By Jean-Pierre Joosting
The voids in silica glass (yellow), which are responsible for scattering of light and degradation of signals, become much smaller when the glass is quenched at higher pressures (Yongjian Yang, et al., npj Computational Materials, September 17, 2020).
Researchers from Japan and the US have found that optical fiber data transmission can be significantly improved by producing the fibers, made of silica glass, under high pressure.

Using computer simulations, researchers at Hokkaido University, Pennsylvania State University and their industry collaborators theoretically show that signal loss from silica glass fibers can be reduced by more than 50 percent when manufactured under high pressure. This finding could dramatically extend the distance data can be transmitted without the need for amplification.

"Improvements in silica glass, the most important material for optical communication, have stalled in recent years due to lack of understanding of the material on the atomic level," says Associate Professor Madoka Ono of Hokkaido University's Research Institute of Electronic Science (RIES). "Our findings can now help guide future physical experiments and production processes, though it will be technically challenging.”

Generally in optical fibers data signal peters out before reaching its final destination due to light being scattered. Amplifiers and other tools are used to contain and relay the information before it scatters, ensuring it is delivered successfully. Scientists are seeking to reduce light scatter, called Rayleigh scattering, to help accelerate data transmission and move closer towards quantum communication.

Ono and her collaborators used multiple computational methods to predict what happens to the atomic structure of silica glass under high temperature and high pressure. They found large voids between silica atoms form when the glass is heated up and then cooled down, which is called quenching, under low pressure. But when this process occurs under 4 gigapascals (GPa), most of the large voids disappear and the glass takes on a much more uniform lattice structure.


The voids in silica glass (yellow), which are responsible for scattering of light and degradation of signals, become much smaller when the glass is quenched at higher pressures (Yongjian Yang, et al., npj Computational Materials, September 17, 2020).


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