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Crossing a critical threshold

Researchers from Lehigh University, Japan and Canada have advanced a step closer to the dream of all-optical data transmission by building and demonstrating what they call the “world’s first fully functioning single crystal waveguide in glass.”

In an article published in Scientific Reports, a Nature publication, the group said it had employed ultrafast femtosecond lasers to produce a three-dimensional single crystal capable of guiding light waves through glass with little loss of light.

The article, published May 19, is titled “Direct laser-writing of ferroelectric single-crystal waveguide architectures in glass for 3D integrated optics.

The article’s lead author, Adam Stone, received his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from Lehigh in 2014. The coauthors are Himanshu Jain, professor of materials science and engineering, and Volkmar Dierolf, professor of physics, both at Lehigh, and researchers from Kyoto University in Japan and Polytechnique Montreal in Canada.

The group says its achievement will boost ongoing efforts to develop photonic integrated circuits (PICs) that are smaller, cheaper, more energy-efficient and more reliable than current networks that use discrete optoelectronic components—waveguides, splitters, modulators, filters, amplifiers—to transport optical signals.

“A major trend in optics,” the researchers write, “has been a drive toward…replacing systems of large discrete components that provide individual functions with compact and multifunctional PICs, in much the same way that integration of electronics has driven the impressive advances of modern computer systems.”

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