A new chemical technique for depositing a non-crystalline form of silicon into the long, ultra-thin pores of optical fibres has been developed by an international team of scientists in the United States and the United Kingdom. The technique, which is the first of its kind to use high-pressure chemistry for making well-developed films and wires of this particular kind of silicon semiconductor, will help scientists to make more-efficient and more-flexible optical fibres. The findings, led by John Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, will be published in a future print edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Badding explained that hydrogenated amorphous silicon - a noncrystalline form of silicon - is ideal for applications such as solar cells. Hydrogenated amorphous silicon also would be useful for the light-guiding cores of optical fibres; however, depositing the silicon compound into an optical fibre - which is thinner than the width of a human hair - presents a challenge.
"Traditionally, hydrogenated amorphous silicon is created using an expensive laboratory device known as a plasma reactor," Badding explained. "Such a reactor begins with a precursor called silane - a silicon-hydrogen compound. Our goal was not only to find a simpler way to create hydrogenated amorphous silicon using silane, but also to use it in the development of an optical fibre."