NSF Materials World Network: Creating Optoelectronic Materials and Devices Inside Microstructured Optical Fibers

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Optoelectronics Research Ctr (closed)


The development of optical fibres led directly to the data communications revolution of the late 20th century and are now impacting many other fields from remote sensing to biomedicine. This impact is growing in part because of rapid advances in active devices for which the fibre serves not merely as a passive waveguide, but as a medium to directly modulate, generate, or otherwise manipulate light. As a result of this versatility, fibres form key components of systems in almost any applications that use light. In parallel with these breakthroughs in photonics, the computer and microelectronics industries has seen exponential growth every 18 months since the 1960's of the performance to price ratio of transistors on CPU and DRAM chips, with commensurate improvements in optoelectronic components such as the visible lasers used in DVD players, and the infrared laser diodes used to generate and modulate light for data communications in optical fibres. The crystalline semiconductors upon which all microelectronics is based, namely silicon, germanium, gallium arsenide and many others, are familiar to almost every scientist and engineer. The advanced technological fields represented by fibre optics that are based on very long, very thin strands of glass and microelectronics based on planar chips fabricated by lithography, are typically integrated to create communication network systems by using intermediate optics and packaging. However, the technology we are developing allows crystalline semiconductor structures made from silicon and germanium directly inside the optical fibre itself. This technique utilises a deposition process similar to that used for modern planar electronic devices and so opens up the possibility for directly combining the light guiding capabilities of optical fibres with the exceptional capabilities of semiconductors for manipulating light and electrons. This suggests that many of the functions currently performed by planar optoelectronics might now be integrated directly inside the fibre itself, and that many new semiconductor devices that cannot be realised in a conventional planar geometry may now become possible. Advanced technological applications demand high performance devices, which in turn require exceptional materials; our efforts focus on the fundamental materials research and development necessary to move this innovation beyond the laboratory to next generation photonic devices and systems.
Description EPSRC
Amount £430,917 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/I035307/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2012 
End 06/2015
Description EPSRC
Amount £395,208 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/J004863/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2012 
End 04/2015
Description Penn State/ORC 
Organisation Penn State University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The diversity and strength of experience in chemistry, optical materials, and optoelectronic devices provided by the cross-Atlantic collaboration has enabled the filing of joint patents, publication in high profile journals together and the results publicized on the web and in trade journals and disseminated via the Worldwide University Network of which both Penn State and Southampton are founder members. There have been extensive, extended visits to each others labs on the part of the students and PI's. The scientific benefits of the interaction are clear: this forefront research depends heavily on capabilities on both sides of the Atlantic. The collaboration strengthened ties between often disparate disciplines and provide a rich and exciting international experience for graduate and undergraduate students.
Collaborator Contribution As above
Impact Numerous journal and conference papers; the filing of joint patents; collaborative going NSF/EPSRC further funding; personnel exchange. The multidisciplinary nature of the research includes high pressure chemistry, optical materials, photonic and optoelectronic device physics and technology.