Navy

Activating and controlling circuits with light guide film

Nodes in the film can direct the action of a variety of sensors greatly extending the utility of technology into new fields of use

Photonics Electronics Sensors

Dr. Kevin Boulais, a scientist at the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Dahlgren Division, uses liquid nitrogen in a molecular beam epitaxy system to create photo capacitors for light guide film applications. (D. Kevin Elliott/Navy)

Light guide film (LGF) is a flat version of an optical fiber in which the optical energy is confined between the two surfaces of the film. LGF can be rigid or flexible and is often used for signs, advertising, and displays.

Light is injected into the film near an edge and scattered over the surface thereby illuminating its proximate face. By controlling the density of the scattering centers, the intensity of the illumination can be made uniform over the entire display instead of being excessively bright near the illumination edge.

Navy scientists have developed a system that uses LGF to operate integrated circuits, light detection sensors, photovoltaic cells, or a metamaterial. The system combines an LGF with a scattering node for directing the light to the circuit on the face of the LGF.

More specifically, light is transmitted in the film and when it reaches a scattering node, it is directed across the film towards a circuit. In this manner, the directed light can power, communicate or control the circuit independently or in groups. These scattering nodes or centers can be formed on the micro or nanoscale.

Integrated circuit control (IC) 110 by LGF 120. Distributed light scattering nodes 130 are on a distal face of the LGF while ICs 140 #1 and #2 are opposite the nodes. Light 150 comes in to be scattered by the nodes for reflection to the ICs This technique enables activation of the ICs without wires to conduct electric current. The ICs can include photovoltaic cells to convert optical energy to electric current.

As an added feature of this technology, it can be used in a reverse light transmission mode which directs light hitting on the surface of the LGF towards a CPU. In such an instance, the system could be used as a skin sensor that collects information from the skin and can then detect injury or other complications.

The technology can serve in a broad number of electronic applications, including operation in the simultaneous triggering of multiple high-voltage switches or in wearable, flexible electronics. There are no copper interconnects to break.

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