Thermo-optical switches are of particular significance in communications networks where increasingly high switching speeds are required. Phase change materials (PCMs), in particular those based on paraffin wax, provide wealth of exciting applications with unusual thermally-induced switching properties, only limited by paraffin’s rather low thermal conductivity. In this paper, the use of different carbon fillers as thermal conductivity enhancers for paraffin has been investigated, and a novel structure based on spot of paraffin wax as a thermo-optic switch is presented. Thermo-optical switching parameters are enhanced with the addition of graphite and graphene, due to the extreme thermal conductivity of the carbon fillers. Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) and Scanning electron microscope (SEM) are performed on paraffin wax composites, and specific heat capacities are calculated based on DSC measurements. Thermo-optical switching based on transmission is measured as a function of the host concentration under conventional electric heating and laser heating of paraffin-carbon fillers composites. Further enhancements in thermo-optical switching parameters are studied under Nd:YAG laser heating. This novel structure can be used in future networks with huge bandwidth requirements and electric noise free remote aerial laser switching applications.
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