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Electronics Inside Optical Fiber 25

Ben writes "Science Blog reports a team from Penn State and the UK has built electronic compenents inside optical fiber. As the story describes it, if you think of the fiber as a water main, the structure places the pumping station inside the pipe. The goal is to figure out how to most efficiently exchange info between the fibers that carry data and the devices that manipulate it."
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Electronics Inside Optical Fiber

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  • Can the... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eightyford ( 893696 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:09PM (#14981318) Homepage
    Can the imbedded semiconductor actually generate light pulses? I remember reading about a new breakthrough that would allow this, but the article doesn't make it clear as to whether or not it is used in this case.
  • by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:18PM (#14981389) Homepage Journal
    So what if the electronic components in the fiber fail? Is someone going to have to repull that line? If so, wouldn't that make it significantly more expencive then replacing a module that is plugged in between two fiber optic lines?

    • Well, if repulling the line is that expensive, it's probably long enough to already contain active equipment... (If you want to cross an ocean, you'll need amplifiers and signal reconditioners at regular intervals anyway)

      • I'm not sure on that. For example, at the school district where I went they installed a fiber back bone to and from each school. Whether the schools where half a block apart, a mile apart, or the elementary school that was over 6 miles away. Rerunning any of those lines would have costed a fortune. Even the one that ran through conduit under a few parking lots to connect the two closest schools.

        • The last ones I saw were blown through conduits, so they would only have to dig once to put the tube in and after that they could upgrade whatever they wanted.. Not sure what the maximum distance is for that technique though.

          I mostly meant that active equipment in fibre cabling is quite common for very long fibres (but they are produced to very high specifications if they can't be reached). Even if they would be mounted in a fibre that could be reached, it's still possible to cut out a broken active compone
          • Rabbits and Fish do help with conduit runs, but it is still expensive to get the techs out to actually perform the service. Escpecially when compared to just changing a module at either end of the line. And for things like that 6 mile run, it is hung from a tension line on telephone polls. Replacing that line would be easier, but would still require a team of techs with a cherry picker to drive the entire route and swap cables. Even if there is a repeater on traditional fiber, I would think it would be fast
            • Or, if they can spin the glass to a microscopic size, possibly an optical integrated circuit or optical pathways between chips in a computer? This would be possible if the creators have managed to insert electronics which can translate between electronic and optical signals quickly. Imagine the wires inside your computer being layed out with this stuff. Unless I'm mistaken, it would significantly reduce all the electrical noise problems common in PCs today. Since the throughput through an optical fiber can
          • Microstructured optical fibers are made by stacking a set of glass capilaries in the desired arrangement (with holes) and then pulling in a fiber puller to neck it down and stretch it into the holey fiber.
    • I'd assume that any fiber device prone to failure would be placed in an easily-accessible region of the fiber, so it would be a splice job, not a pull job.
  • Better link (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:22PM (#14981420)
    From Southampton [] rather than some random blog.
  • by LehiNephi ( 695428 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:42PM (#14981562) Journal
    It's not really a pump inside a pipe. It's like a pump inside a submarine inside the pipe. If you RTFA, the fiber is actually in a tube-like form. The electronics aren't actually embedded in the glass itself, they merely reside in a purpose-made pocket. I initally wondered if having a circuit in the middle of a fiber would reduce the transmission distance, but apparently it won't interfere.

    It'll be interesting to see if this gets any traction in the real world. I guess I don't see much benefit beyond a possible reduction in latency.
    • You say the words "reduction in latency" as if making something faster and cheaper (in the long run) is a bad thing. Do not forget that they have only breached the surface of this technology. Imagine if we can process a signal while it is en route with less delay than the traditional microprocessor. I, for one, look forward to faster network. *_N TZ_
  • Upgrading? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mplex ( 19482 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:48PM (#14981618)
    What happens when you want to upgrade your transceivers? Where I work, we are still using the same fiber from the 80's that used to carry 2Mb that is now carrying gig. I don't see how embedding the electronics in the glass would do anything but make it obsolete in the near future. That's the great thing about fiber, you just upgrade the end point equipment and scale it up for more bandwidth.
    • I think what this is for is at your end points. The article (brief as it was) describes the intent of the semiconductors as "extracting/analyzing data". So the light comes in and instead of going through a traditional end point it is fed into one of these "computing tubes" which process/adds data faster than current tech can do. They're certainly not pulling up cable to replace semiconductors. Think of this as your data going McDonalds and heading through the drive through vs. getting out of the car and
  • The good news: your new computer is 3 centimeters thick.
    The bad news: it is 40 meters long, and even though it looks pretty (ooohhh blinky lights) you dare not touch it for it will burn your hands.
  • by LightningTH ( 151451 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @02:07PM (#14981754)
    People are talking about optical fiber and think of it as it is now. What about fiber inside the CPU core, or inside of cameras. This would allow for even smaller electronics and taking up even less room.

  • Wow, i don't know what they are, but putting a but of compenents in an optical fiber must be cool. Today compenents, tomorrow entire motherbroads!
  • Does this facilitate increased bandwidth or lambda density? Is it cheaper?

    The neato factor may be sky high, but there needs to be something to drive adoption of the technologh

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!