This project addresses the development of low-loss polymer optical fibers and waveguides with integrated gain and ultrafast optical switching functionalities. Such a class of all plastic media would allow high speed signal processing, one of the most important requirements in local area data communication systems. It would also result in higher functionality components and systems for data handling applications in new sectors, including the increasingly important automotive communication systems market (growing at 40% per annum).
The novel approach that we propose consists of doping passive host polymers with isolated chains of photoactive conjugated polymers. We have recently shown that this approach can simultaneously enhance the magnitude and spectral coverage of the optical gain (compared to that of the undiluted conjugated polymer) and also provide a new ultrafast switching mechanism which derives from the one-dimensional dynamics of isolated chains. We propose a multi-disciplinary strategy in order to optimize this approach and explore its suitability for incorporation into a polymer optical fibre (POF) environment. We will prepare new materials, optimize the blending process to achieve active polymer chain isolation (including the use of copolymerization), investigate, in detail, the photonic properties of these doped systems and develop prototype fibre and device structures.
We have recently demonstrated that we can exploit the peculiar one dimensional recombination dynamics of the charge carriers in isolated conjugated polymer chains, to yield a gain switching off-on ratio of up to 100 GHz in thin film geometries. Accordingly, we intend to pursuit the same objectives in light guiding systems in order to achieve switching of the signal directly inside the propagation media, avoiding the use of multi-component architectures that usually lead to reduced communication speed and coupling losses.
Funding SchemeSTREP - Specific Targeted Research Project
SW7 2AZ London