Consortium to develop next-generation pof

W ith the help of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (darpa), the next generation of plastic optical fiber (pof) is in the works. darpa recently awarded a $7 million contract to a consortium of companies to develop new pof technology.

--Gail Leach Carvelli

W ith the help of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (darpa), the next generation of plastic optical fiber (pof) is in the works. darpa recently awarded a $7 million contract to a consortium of companies to develop new pof technology.

The group, including Packard-Hughes Interconnect (Irvine, CA), The Boeing Co. (Seattle, WA), Boston Optical Fiber (Westborough, MA), Honeywell Inc. (Minneapolis, MN), and Lucent Technologies (Murray Hill, NJ), calls itself pavnet. Its purpose is to develop breakthroughs in POF technology. In particular, the group hopes to demonstrate a bandwidth capability in excess of 3 gigabits per second, using high-speed vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (vcsels). It will also focus on developing new materials and improving the fiber-manufacturing process.

Michael D. Orr, pavnet program manager, says the award will support the development of pof technology that will operate in the near-infrared range. "This will allow the use of low-cost, high-speed optoelectronic devices now available in the marketplace," says Orr, who is also the fiber-optic product manager for Packard-Hughes.

He adds, "The fiber`s operating temperature range will be enhanced and its attenuation will be significantly reduced. These improvements will facilitate longer operating distances and higher data rates."

As part of the contract, each company will take on a different role in the development of the technology.

-Packard-Hughes will design connection systems for military environments, including termination techniques, fiber-end finishing, and environmental packaging.

-Boeing will demonstrate fiber, cable, and components for laptop applications for use onboard commercial and military aircraft.

-Boston Optical Fiber will optimize fiber design, materials, and composition for various performance levels. The company will also develop fiber-process parameters based on materials selected and define cable material and construction to meet requirements for harsh environments.

-Honeywell will develop low-cost, robust optoelectronic modules using 860-nanometer vcsels to take advantage of large-size pof.

-Lucent will design and modify interfaces for advanced pof technology in large transmission systems.

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