The Ultimate Soft Glass Extrusion Machine!

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Optoelectronics Research Centre


Optical fibres have revolutionized the modern world. Information on the Internet, most phone calls, and in particular long distance calls are all transmitted on optical fibres, not on copper wires. Fibre optic technology continues to develop, with new applications in telecommunications to transmit yet more information, or make messages 'automatically find their own way' to the correct destination through the fibre optic network. Additionally special fibres can be used to generate light, and to sense materials in contact with them.To make a fibre a rod of glass (the 'preform') is heated to high temperature and pulled into a thread. Much of the skill goes into making the 'preform', which may be made from special 'soft' (that is, fairly low melting point) glasses to achieve special functions. Additionally the preform often needs to contain small holes, or to be a special shape such as a hexagon.One way to make these preforms is to force the glass through a die, very much like toothpaste out of a tube, except that it is done at very high temperature and with very big forces! The preforms need to be very accurate, straight, free of bubbles, and the glass must be heated and cooled carefully or it is spoilt.For several years we have extruded glass in this way, modifying our machine many times. We now wish to build a dedicated machine incorporating all our existing knowledge from scratch to produce not only better preforms but novel types we cannot make ccurrently. These have the potential to improve many separate research projects.


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