This year, scientists from Optoelectronics Research Centre, ORC, brought the commercial use of hollow–core fiber one step closer to being a reality. "Up to now, air-core fibers have struggled to match the losses exhibited by silica. These incredibly impressive results show we are now within stabbing distance of a challenge to conventional fibers,” Sir David Payne, director of ORC, said.

Conventional optical fibers are successful, but they have profound limitations. These include a finite spectral transparency, susceptibility to optical damage, dispersion — which restricts the ability to deliver short and ultrashort pulses. Such limitations are fundamental to conventional optical fibers because the light travels through a solid or a liquid material. Researchers are now demonstrating that an alternative optical fiber technology, based on the use of silica fibers but with hollow cores and using different optical physics, can substantially outperform standard fiber designs for numerous applications.