Making the First Low-Loss Optical Fibers

Peter C. Schultz

Thirty years before the laser was invented, researchers laid the groundwork for another huge breakthrough in optics—the development of low-loss fiber for communications.


figureFrank Hyde at work in his laboratory circa 1934.

It all began in 1930, when a young organic chemist named Frank Hyde was hired by Corning Glass Works to explore ways to combine the newly discovered organic materials called plastics with inorganic glasses to form glass-like materials. In the course of his investigations, he received U.S. patent 2,272,342, which was filed in 1934; the patent disclosed how vapors of silicon tetrachloride, when passed through a flame, would hydrolyze to form a fine powder (which he called soot) of pure fused silica glass. This would become a fundamental step toward realizing glass-based optical fiber.

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