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Scientists make working fiber optic cables from wood

VTT developed a fiber made of cellulose. Cellulose optical fibers are best suited for sensors that benefit from the biodegradability of the material.
Photo : VTT

Given the speed with which technology advances and is outdated, there is a good reason to develop electronics of materials that disintegrate and biodegrade when discarded instead to replenish landfills for centuries. Thus, researchers in Finland have found a way to produce functional fiber optics from wood fibers which disintegrate themselves upon disposal.

F iber optical cables are perhaps the unsung heroes of the modern digital world. U Unlike metal wires that transmit electrical signals, cables contain long thin threads of glass or plastic that transmit miles of light and connect data centers, cities, and even continents. Instead of flowing electrons, light pulses travel over fiber optic cables, called total reflection, with photons bouncing off the inner walls of the transparent fibers and remaining in their path from one end to the other.

For data In order to be transmitted with minimal errors, these fibers must be visually perfect. This seems to be the exact opposite of anything made of wood. But wood is not completely opaque, and depending on its thickness, moisture, and other added materials, photons can still pass – as evidenced by the myriad of available wood lamps .

But that's not the case As the researchers from the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland just tore a branch off a tree and tried to send light pulses across its length. The fiber-optic cables developed by the researchers actually consist of wood-based cellulose: the structural material with which plants can stand upright. In the preparation, it is treated with ionic salt-based solvents and then wrapped with an outer layer of cellulose acetate having a lower refractive index than the core. As a result, photons bounce around like in glass or plastic fiber cables [194559] and remain trapped there.

However, it will take a long time for the discovery to replace the traditional materials used to replace fiber optic cable. However, its ability to transmit light pulses in comparison to glass or plastic has unique properties that make it useful for other applications while researchers are improving its performance. Being made of wood fibers, it is able to absorb water and this impairs its ability to transmit measurable light. An immediate application could therefore be a moisture sensor for structures made of wood or other materials that do not play well with water.

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