Daily Science Factlet – Photonic crystal fibres

A friend and I are entering a video into the Optical Society’s Optics in a Minute video contest. We’re doing our video on photonic crystal fibres, which are allowing researchers to explore new ways of transmitting light for things like telecommunications and medical procedures.

Traditional optical fibres, that employ total internal reflection of light to carry information for things like the internet, can’t carry high powered laser light, because they would either melt, or distort the light – not great for accurately carrying data.

But unlike the solid glass traditional fibres, photonic crystal fibres are made up of a long hollow crystal of silica, so they carry the light in a different way (Fig 1). The sides of the crystal will allow certain wavelengths of light through but not others, due to an effect known as the photonic bandgap. And you can choose a crystal that reflects only the band of wavelengths you’re after (Fig 2).

This means that we can now guide powerful lasers within fibres that don’t melt and don’t distort the light.

Stay tuned for the video – we’ll put it up on youtube and I’ll post it here…