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ITMO Uses Inkjet Printing to Create Inexpensive Optical Micro-Waveguides

Russia’s ITMO University has for the first time created low-cost, simple optical micro-waveguides using common inkjet technology.

According to the scientists involved in this endeavor, the new technology has been optimized for the production of optical elements on an industrial scale.

Optical fiber is widely used in communication today but it could someday end up obsolete like every other technology.

With the miniaturization of devices in play, scientists and engineers have been trying to create an analogue of fiber on a microscale.

Such devices are known as ‘waveguides.’ They are necessary for new computers on an optical basis in order to ensure efficient signal transmission and processing.

There are some complex and expensive technologies already in place for creating waveguides like laser ablation or photolithography.

These are however time-consuming and require complex equipment, rare materials and additional sample processing.

Now scientists at ITMO have developed an inexpensive alternative using common inkjet technology to create optical micro-waveguides.

Waveguide printing begins with the preparation of special ink. Its main ingredient is a suspended solution, or sol, of titanium dioxide nanoparticles.

Such a material was chosen due to the high refractive index, which is necessary for the waveguide to effectively conduct the signal.

In order to achieve suitable ink parameters, the scientists selected the solvents, the concentration of the main component and the surfactants.

After that the ink is filled in an inkjet printer, which applies the material according to a given geometry on a clean glass substrate.

“The feature of our work is that we explained the choice of material, working wavelength and waveguide geometry, instead of simple description of properties and methods,” says Anastasia Klestova, member of SCAMT Laboratory of ITMO University. “However, the main advantage is a simple and cheap method suitable for industry.”

The scientists are hoping to apply the same inkjet printing for the creation of other elements necessary for processing the optical signal sometime soon.


  • Kronverkskiy Prospekt, 49, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 197101
  • ITMO