Subwavelength-diameter optical fibre

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A subwavelength-diameter fibre wraps light around human hair.

A subwavelength-diameter optical fibre (SDF or SDOF) is an optical fibre whose diameter is less than the wavelength of the light being propagated through it. An SDF usually consists of long thick parts (same as conventional optical fibres) at both ends, transition regions (tapers) where the fibre diameter gradually decreases down to the subwavelength value, and a subwavelength-diameter waist, which is the main acting part.


There is no general agreement on how these optical elements are to be named; different groups prefer to emphasize different properties of such fibres, sometimes even using different terms. The names in use include:

The term waveguide can be applied not only to fibres, but also to other waveguiding structures such as silicon photonic subwavelength waveguides.[27] The term submicron is often synonymous to subwavelength, as the majority of experiments are carried out using light with a wavelength between 0.8 and 1.6 µm.[11] All the names with the prefix nano- are somewhat misleading, since it is usually applied to objects with dimensions on the scale of nanometers (e.g., nanoparticle, nanotechnology). The characteristic behaviour of the SDF appears when the fibre diameter is about half of the wavelength of light. That is why the term subwavelength is the most appropriate for these objects.[original research?]


An SDF is usually created by tapering a commercial optical fibre. Special pulling machines accomplish the process.

An optical fibre usually consists of a core, a cladding, and a protective coating. Before pulling a fibre, its coating is removed (i.e., the fibre is stripped). The ends of the bare fibre are fixed onto movable "translation" stages on the machine. The middle of the fibre (between the stages) is then heated with a flame or a laser beam; at the same time, the translation stages move in opposite directions. The glass melts and the fibre is elongated, while its diameter decreases.

Using the described method, waists between 1 and 10 nm in length and diameters down to 100 nm are obtained.


Being extremely thin, an SDF is also extremely fragile. Therefore, an SDF is usually mounted onto a special frame immediately after pulling and is never detached from this frame.

Dust, however, may attach to the surface of an SDF. If significant laser power is coupled into the fibre, the dust particles will scatter light in the evanescent field, heat up, and may thermally destroy the waist. In order to prevent this, SDFs are pulled and used in dust-free environments such as flowboxes or vacuum chambers.


  • Sensors.[28]
  • Nonlinear optics.
  • Fibre couplers.
  • Atom trapping and guiding. See, for example,[29] and.[30]
  • Quantum interface for quantum information processing. See, for example, a theoretical analysis with applications to precise quantum nondemolition measurement[31] and all-optical switches.[32]

See also[edit]


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