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What’s the point of Nanoparticles in Fibre Optics?

Steve Summerton
By Steve Summerton
In this relatively short (but rather complicated!) blog post, we’ll be tackling the following question…what’s the point of nanoparticles in fibre optic cabling?
What’s the point of Nanoparticles in Fibre Optics?
Well, to start answering this question, first, it is probably wise to start by answering a slightly simpler question, what is a nanoparticle? In a nutshell, it’s all about size, for something to be classed as a nanoparticle (also the same as an “ultrafine particle”) it must measure between 1 and 100nm in size. Simple enough so far…
The reason nanoparticles are generally of huge interest to science, is because of their numerous properties. In effect, they bridge the gap between bulk materials and atomic or molecular structures. For the purposes of this blog though, we are interested in nanoparticles specifically because of their optical properties.

A while back now, researchers discovered and established that incorporating nanoparticles into optical fibres had several key benefits including an improved refractive index and an ability to manipulate light. The refractive index essentially determines how much light can penetrate through a given object and this is relevant because it has implications for the Raman Effect.

The Raman Effect is a principle tool used in fibre optic telecommunications. It describes how light interacts with a given material to generate wavelengths of a specific length, based on the interaction between the light and the molecules of that given material (hence why a material’s refractive index is important). Traditionally, that material that was used for fibre optics was metallic nanoparticles.

However, in 2016, researchers from Moscow and Australia discovered in their initial experiments, that silicone nanoparticles can induce the Raman effect, but at a much higher efficiency, generating a Raman emission intensity that is 100 times greater that the metallic nanoparticles that were traditionally used in fibre optics.
Why does that matter? It matters because the longer the wavelengths of light that are produced as a result of following the Raman Effect, the further they are able to travel through stretches of glass fibre. On a practical level, this means that fibre optic cabling would need fewer repeaters spaced further apart, (and potentially not even need repeaters at all) and still deliver a strong signal.

This in turn could help deliver faster, more efficient data transmission and increase speeds across greater lengths, ultimately leading to a better-connected world. So that’s the point of nanoparticles in fibre optics.
If you’re interested in upgrading to fibre optic cabling to improve your data transmission speeds, speak to one of our cabling experts today.
 

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