The Clearest Glass in the World

Jeff Hecht

Glass companies traditionally kept details of their advances secret to stay ahead of their competitors, so the news took time to reach the outside world. In July, Maurer told Stew Miller that Corning had reached the 20 dB/km target, but he didn’t talk to any other outsiders. Only at the end of September did Maurer make a public announcement, at a London meeting on trunk telecommunications.1 He reported a loss of 16 dB/km at the helium-neon wavelength, but said nothing of the glass composition or fabrication. Maurer was surprised to find no one else was close; he thought others had been guarding their own advances as carefully as Corning. Miller was surprised that Corning had reached 16 dB/km. Thinking Corning was reporting a better fiber—not just a better measurement of their first one—he went home and lit a fire under fiber development at Bell Labs, which had been in the shadow of hollow optical waveguides. Engineers at the British Post Office and STL also were impressed, and invited Maurer to their labs so they could verify his measurements.

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