Power over fiber?

Today’s optical network terminals (ONTs) require a power source and backup battery for their operation. But what if you could provide power over glass?

Last June, JDSU (San Jose, CA) acquired Photonic Power Systems, a startup developing a system for the delivery of power over fiber. While the company has not publicly announced plans to enter the fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) space, the use of photonic power in such applications is technically feasible, contends Jan-Gustav Werthen, director of engineering for JDSU’s newly created Photonic Power Business Unit.

JDSU’s Photonic Power Module (PPM) consists of the gallium arsenide-based photovoltaic power converter (PPC), a laser diode, and a laser driver, all connected via standard multimode or singlemode fiber, over distances up to 10 km. The laser launches up to 5 W of power into the fiber, and the PPC coverts the light into 0.5 to 1 W of electrical power.

“It is technically feasible for our photonic power technology to supplement JDSU’s Agile Optical Networking strategy by providing self-healing capabilities if a fiber break should occur,” explains Werthen. “Photonic power can be transmitted on some of the spare fibers that are routed to the PON node, eliminating any need for copper lines. This power would activate a switch to permit rapid changeover to a backup fiber network if the main fiber line is broken or damaged,” he adds. “This entire operation could be implemented from the central office, eliminating the need for expensive truck rolls.”

For now, target markets for photonic power technology include the medical, wireless communications, electrical power, industrial sensor, and aerospace industries. However, notes JDSU spokesperson Jayme Curtis, “Anywhere you have copper and copper is a problem, you could replace it with [photonic power].”

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