Open Competition 3 - Electronics and Photonics
Development of Chiral Grating Technology for Advanced Fiber Laser
Develop and prototype a new type of low-cost laser--one that operates inside the glass fiber used for optical communications--potentially leading to dramatic telecommunications system cost reductions.
Sponsor: Chiral Photonics, Inc.115 Industrial East
Clifton, NJ 07012
In this three-year project Chiral Photonics, Inc. (CPI) plans to develop high-precision methods to manufacture strand-like, glass-fiber lasers that are three times more efficient than current semiconductor lasers that transmit light waves over fiber-optic telecommunications networks - at about a fifth of the cost. Moreover, the high-power chiral fiber lasers (CFLs) that the company intends to build could be inserted directly into optical fiber networks, eliminating losses in efficiency that result when today's semiconductor lasers are coupled to the network. The novel laser design features a twisted glass fiber that selectively filters light on the basis of wavelength and polarization: only light of a specific wavelength and polarization state is allowed to lase. This low-cost, light-polarizing arrangement creates a feedback cavity for generating high-intensity laser beams which replaces the expensive fiber Bragg gratings now used. In the first phase of the ATP project, CPI will demonstrate methods for making a single-frequency, fixed-wavelength CFL. The company will also focus on a process for making CF lasers that can be tuned to produce light of different wavelengths. Such tunable lasers make it possible to send light signals of different wavelengths over the same strand of optical fiber. These lasers would be a major boost to so-called wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) technology, an approach now being implemented to increase the bandwidth of fiber-optic networks. The key technical risk is developing a continuous manufacturing process that reliably twists the fibers to the required pitch with near-perfect uniformity. The process demands precise control of the heating, drawing, twisting, and cooling of the fibers. Having already developed several key concepts that underlie chiral fiber technology, CPI does not have the internal resources to address critical processing and manufacturing issues that could delay the technology's entry into the rapidly growing global market for telecommunications lasers, currently about $2 billion per year. Potential strategic partners and venture-capital firms have not provided financing because of the technical risks and the sluggish, yet high potential, state of the optics and telecommunications markets. Other likely applications of chiral fiber technology include sensors for the oil and gas industries, chemical analysis, aerospace, and the U.S. transportation infrastructure, such as roads and bridges.