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Brite-Euram: Making a Lasting Impression on Europe Graphic element
Brite-Euram: Making a Lasting Impression on Europe

 

  Measuring the impact
Principal benefits  
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Cases histories

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- SOPHIA - added value from Brite-Euram  
  Using diamonds to improve optical fibres  
- Aerospace project falls to earth  
- Give them the tools (quickly)…  
- Good research, no impact  
- In the pipeline - a real high-pressure project  
- High-quality players in a poor team?  

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Using diamonds to improve optical fibres


Development of optical fibres is a high-tech industry. A small but leading-edge company in this sector, specialising in optical fibres for demanding surgical and medical applications, got involved with a Brite-Euram project to improve fibre production using diamond film technology. The results were successful - but, intriguingly, not as planned.

The inspiration behind the project was to make the fibres more resistant to heat, which was needed for sterilisation, and to humidity and water - water absorption makes the fibres brittle. The intended technology was the chemical vapour deposition (CVD) of a diamond layer during fibre production. While results were good, the process was slower than had been hoped.

It was originally thought that with a greater R&D effort following the project, and a more powerful deposition source, the process could have been speeded up. It was not to be. Yet the project was still judged a success, for two reasons:

1. Using CVD, the optical fibre manufacturer was able to produce the glass pre-forms (the material from which the fibres are drawn) internally at a much lower cost, much more quickly, and with far greater flexibility; and

2. The company also found it was able to add an external layer of a suitable organic material to the pre-form which was not made brittle by water, and which could resist high temperatures, and thereby achieve a key aim in a much simpler way than had been envisaged. (In practice, the fibres are drawn from a pre-form, which contains a suitable protective layer.)

The project worked because the partners were flexible enough to change their expectations as needed. They were able to seize the opportunities offered by the results of the experiments and the research, and take on a new approach to their original problem. This flexibility was helped by the fact that the managerial and scientific sides of the project were the responsibility of one person: the project co-ordinator was the president of the company.

Co-operation throughout the project was good, with the designated research centre ready to augment the optical fibre manufacturer's technical expertise.

As for the future, diamond layer deposition technology is now the subject of a follow-up project on laser diode cooling, meaning that the partners are now firmly set in a long-lasting and potentially very fruitful relationship.


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