Optical waveguides

Optical waveguides are the most commonly used type of waveguide in medicine.

The most common kind of optical waveguides are optical fibers. Optical fibers are used for everything from telecommunications to artificial Christmas trees. In the medical industry though the most important application of optical fibers are fiber-optic based delivery systems. Fiber-optic based delivery systems are used to transport or guide lasers when operating on humans. In short, fiber optic waveguides are used for laser surgery.

Silicone is the preferred material for making the core of optical waveguides in the medical industry (before silicone waveguides where used bundled glass was the preferred material). The reason for preference of silicone over bundled glass is that silicone waveguides are: 1) shatterproof, hence more safe; 2) more flexible than glass; 3) costs approximately the same as glass waveguides; and 4) has a higher core/OD transmission of laser energy than bundled glass.

Aside from silicone other materials used for optical waveguides include sapphire fibers, zirconium fluoride glasses, hollow metallic waveguides, hollow dielectric waveguides and hollow plastic waveguides to name a few. Currently research is being done all over the world in search of better materials for both the core and coatings used for manufacturing waveguides.

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