The scientists found that the optical fibers made of zinc selenide could be useful in two ways. First, they observed that the new fibers were more efficient at converting light from one color to another. "When traditional optical fibers are used for signs, displays, and art, it's not always possible to get the colors you want," Badding explained. "Zinc selenide, using a process called nonlinear frequency conversion, is more capable of changing colors."
Second, as Badding and his team expected, they found that the new class of fiber provided more versatility not just in the visible spectrum, but also in the infrared -- electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths longer than those of visible light. Existing optical-fiber technology is inefficient at transmitting infrared light. However, the zinc selenide optical fibers that Badding's team developed are able to transmit the longer wavelengths of infrared light. "Exploiting these wavelengths is exciting because it represents a step toward making fibers that can serve as infrared lasers," Badding explained. "For example, the military currently uses laser-radar technology that can handle the near-infrared, or 2 to 2.5-micron range. A device capable of handling the mid-infrared, or over 5-micron range would be more accurate. The fibers we created can transmit wavelengths of up to 15 microns."
Badding also explained that the detection of pollutants and environmental toxins could be yet another application of better laser-radar technology capable of interacting with light of longer wavelengths. "Different molecules absorb light of different wavelengths; for example, water absorbs, or stops, light at the wavelengths of 2.6 mi
|Contact: Barbara Kennedy|