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Fluid Optics

OFS, a Lucent Technologies spinoff headquartered in Norcross, GA, is looking for a liquid solution to the problem of building a better Internet. Researchers at OFS have created experimental optical fibers that employ small plugs of fluid in channels surrounding the light-guiding glass core. Moving a plug along the fiber “tunes” the optical signal on the basis of how the light in the fiber’s core interacts with the fluid. Benjamin Eggleton, who until recently headed photonics devices research at OFS, says that such fibers could direct optical signals toward their destination, sending one stream of data from Houston to Kalamazoo, for example, and another to New York City. Achieving an all-optical-and much faster-Internet requires the ability to switch information as light, rather than having to convert data into electronic form and then back to light. But Eggleton, now a professor at the University of Sydney in Australia, cautions that such switches are “a number of years away from practical application.”

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