Researchers collaborating from Hokkaido University and The Pennsylvania State University show that producing silica glass fibers under high pressure can greatly improve optical fiber data transmission, reducing signal loss by over 50%. The new research is published in the journal npj Computational Materials.
Reducing signal loss means that industries could extend the distance that data can be transmitted without requiring 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."
Scientists around the globe have been looking for a way to reduce light scatter, known as Rayleigh scattering, that occurs as a result of data being transmitted over long distances. Rayleigh scattering reduces the signal of data before it reaches its destination, a problem for long-distance communication needs. While amplifiers can help reduce Rayleigh scattering, scientists and industrial interests alike would like to figure out a solution that does not require amplifiers.
To address this goal, Ono’s team used computer simulations to predict what happens to the atomic structure of silica glass under high temperature and high pressure. Their simulations showed that the silica glass experiences a physical transformation, during which smaller rings of atoms are eliminated which lets larger rings join together in a lattice structure. This in turn decreases the number of gaps and voids in the structure that are responsible for light scattering.
"Now that we know the ideal pressure, we hope this research will help spur the development of high-pressure manufacturing devices that can produce this ultra-transparent silica glass," comments Ono.
The researchers plan to continue their investigations to explore the effects of using a slower cooling rate at higher pressure.