Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mind the gap: Nanoscale speed bump could regulate plasmons for high-speed data flow

02.04.2015

The name sounds like something Marvin the Martian might have built, but the "nanomechanical plasmonic phase modulator" is not a doomsday device.

Developed by a team of government and university researchers, including physicists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the innovation harnesses tiny electron waves called plasmons. It's a step towards enabling computers to process information hundreds of times faster than today's machines.


The plasmonic phase modulator is an inverted, nanoscale speed bump. Gold strands are stretched side by side across a gap just 270 nanometers above the gold surface below them. Incoming plasmons travel though this air gap between the bridges and the bottom gold layer. Lowering the

Credit: Dennis/Rutgers and Dill/NIST

Computers currently shuttle information around using electricity traveling down nanoscale metal wires. Although inexpensive and easy to miniaturize, metal wires are limited in terms of speed due to the resistance in the metal itself.

Fiber optics use light to move information about 10,000 times faster, but these and other nonmetallic waveguides are constrained by pesky physical laws that require critical dimensions to be at least half the wavelength of the light in size; still small, but many times larger than the dimensions of current commercial nanoscale electronics.

Plasmonics combines the small size and manufacturability of electronics with the high speeds of optics. When light waves interact with electrons on a metal's surface, strong fields with dimensions far smaller than the wavelength of the original light can be created--plasmons. Unlike light, these plasmons are free to travel down nanoscale wires or gaps in metals.

The team, which included researchers from Rutgers, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and Argonne National Laboratory, fabricated their device using commercial nanofabrication equipment at the NIST NanoFab. Small enough to serve in existing and future computer architectures, this technology may also enable electrically tunable and switchable thin optical components.

Their findings were published in Nature Photonics.

The plasmonic phase modulator is effectively an inverted, nanoscale speed bump. Eleven gold strands are stretched side by side like footbridges across a 23-micrometer gap just 270 nanometers above the gold surface below them. Incoming plasmons, created by laser light at one end of the array, travel though this air gap between the bridges and the bottom gold layer.

When a control voltage is applied, electrostatic attraction bends the gold strands downwards into a U shape. At a maximum voltage--close to the voltages used in today's computer chips--the gap narrows, slowing the plasmons. As the plasmons slow, their wavelength becomes shorter, allowing more than an extra half of a plasmonic wave to fit under the bridge. Because it's exactly out of phase with the original wave, this additional half wavelength can be used to selectively cancel the wave, making the bridge an optical switch.

At 23 micrometers, the prototype is relatively large, but according to NIST researcher Vladimir Aksyuk, their calculations show that the device could be shortened by a factor of 10, scaling the device's footprint down by a factor of 100. According to these calculations, the modulation range can be maintained without increase in the optical loss, as the length and the size of the gap are reduced.

"With these prototypes, we showed that nanomechanical phase tuning is efficient," says Aksyuk. "This effect can be generalized to other tunable plasmonic devices that need to be made smaller. And as they get smaller, you can put more of them on the same chip, bringing them closer to practical realization."

###

B.S. Dennis, M.I. Haftel, D.A. Czaplewski, D. Lopez, G. Blumberg and V.A. Aksyuk. Compact nano-mechanical plasmonic phase modulators. Nature Photonics. Available online March 30. 2015.

Media Contact

Mark Esser
mark.esser@nist.gov
301-975-8735

 @usnistgov

http://www.nist.gov

Mark Esser | EurekAlert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht European XFEL prepares for user operation: Researchers can hand in first proposals for experiments
24.01.2017 | European XFEL GmbH

nachricht PPPL physicist uncovers clues to mechanism behind magnetic reconnection
24.01.2017 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Arctic melt ponds form when meltwater clogs ice pores

24.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Synthetic nanoparticles achieve the complexity of protein molecules

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

PPPL physicist uncovers clues to mechanism behind magnetic reconnection

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>