Researchers Produce Cheap Micro-Waveguides for Optical Computers

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Researchers from ITMO University used common inkjet technology to create optical micro-waveguides

Optical fiber is a commonly used medium for communication as it can send a signal over long distances with minimal loss in wavelength frequency.  Small devices, however, require analogue of fiber on a microscale. Such devices are called waveguides and are necessary for optical computers in order to ensure efficient signal transmission and processing. Now, a team of researchers from ITMO University suggested use of inkjet printers to create optical micro-waveguides. According to the researcher, the approach enables to rapidly create waveguides with the necessary parameters. Moreover, the approach does not require expensive equipment and complex procedures.

To create optical micro-waveguides with the help of a common inkjet technology, the team developed special ink. The main ingredient of the ink is a suspended solution (sol) of titanium dioxide nanoparticles. The high refractive index of nanoparticles enable the waveguide to effectively conduct signal. The team selected the solvents, the concentration of the main component, and the surfactants In order to achieve suitable ink parameters. The researchers then filled the ink in an inkjet printer that is capable of applying the material according to a given geometry on a clean glass substrate.

According to Anastasia Klestova, member of SCAMT Laboratory of ITMO University, the new approach is a simple and cheap method suitable for industry. The researchers conducted the first industrial tests of the technology together with IQDemy, a company that manufactures printers based on UV-LED technology. The results demonstrated that the method can be adapted without compromising on waveguides quality, stated Anastasia Klestova. The team is focused on applying inkjet printing for the creation of other elements that are required for processing optical signal. The new technology enhanced for the production of optical elements on an industrial scale, was described in a paper published in the journal Advanced Optical Materials on November 20, 2018.

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Bill Carr is a Senior Editor at Plains Gazette, based in Austin. Previously he has worked for FOX Sports and MSNBC's "Morning Joe." he is a graduate of the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California. You can reach Bill via email or by phone