This image shows self-assembled silica wires illuminated by HeNe (helium-neon) laser light from one end.
Credit: John Canning.

Self-assembling silica microwires may herald new generation of integrated optical devices

January 23, 2013

(Phys.org)—Silica microwires are the tiny and as-yet underutilized cousins of optical fibers. If precisely manufactured, however, these hair-like slivers of silica could enable applications and technology not currently possible with comparatively bulky optical fiber. By carefully controlling the shape of water droplets with an ultraviolet laser, a team of researchers from Australia and France has found a way to coax silica nanoparticles to self-assemble into much more highly uniform silica wires.

The international team describes their novel manufacturing technique and its potential applications in a paper published today in the Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal Optics Materials Express. This technique is particularly significant, according to the researchers, because it could, for the first time, enable silica to be combined with any material through a process of microwire self-assembly.

“We’re currently living in the ‘Glass Age,’ based upon silica, which enables the Internet,” says John Canning, team member and a professor in the school of chemistry at The University of Sydney in Australia. “Silica’s high thermal processing, ruggedness, and unbeatable optical transparency over long distances equate to unprecedented capacity to transmit data and information all over the world.”

Read more: Self-assembling silica microwires may herald new generation of integrated optical devices — phys.org.

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