A discovery by Princeton researchers may lead to an efficient method for controlling the transmission of light and improve new generations of communications technologies powered by light rather than electricity.
Princeton researchers tested whether quasicrystals -- an unusual form of solid -- would be useful for controlling the path of light by constructing a three-dimensional, softball-sized model of such a structure with 4,000 centimeter-long polymer rods.
Photo courtesy of Paul Steinhardt
The discovery could be used to develop new structures that would work in the same fashion as an elbow joint in plumbing by enabling light to make sharp turns as it travels through photonic circuits. Fiber-optic cables currently used in computers, televisions and other devices can transport light rapidly and efficiently, but cannot bend at sharp angles. Information in the light pulses has to be converted back into cumbersome electrical signals before they can be sorted and redirected to their proper destinations.
In an experiment detailed in the Aug. 18 issue of Nature, the researchers constructed a three-dimensional model of a quasicrystal made from polymer rods to test whether such structures are useful for controlling the path of light. A quasicrystal is an unusual form of solid composed of two building blocks, or groups of atoms, that repeat regularly throughout the structure with two different spacings. Ordinary crystals are made from a single building block that repeats with all equal spacings. The difference enables quasicrystals to have more spherical symmetries that are impossible for crystals.
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