Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Physicists find right (and left) solution for on-chip optics

23.04.2013
Nanoscale router converts and directs optical signals efficiently
A Harvard-led team of researchers has created a new type of nanoscale device that converts an optical signal into waves that travel along a metal surface. Significantly, the device can recognize specific kinds of polarized light and accordingly send the signal in one direction or another.

The findings, published in the April 19 issue of Science, offer a new way to precisely manipulate light at the subwavelength scale without damaging a signal that could carry data. This opens the door to a new generation of on-chip optical interconnects that can efficiently funnel information from optical to electronic devices.

"If you want to send a data signal around on a tiny chip with lots of components, then you need to be able to precisely control where it's going," says co-lead author Balthasar Müller, a graduate student at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). "If you don't control it well, information will be lost. Directivity is such an important factor."
The coupler transforms incoming light into a wave called a surface plasmon polariton, a surface ripple in the sea of electrons that exists inside metals.

In the past, it has been possible to control the direction of these waves by changing the angle at which light strikes the surface of the coupler, but, as Müller puts it, "This was a major pain. Optical circuits are very difficult to align, so readjusting the angles for the sake of routing the signal was impractical."

With the new coupler, the light simply needs to come in perpendicularly, and the device does the rest. Acting like a traffic controller, it reads the polarization of the incoming light wave—which might be linear, left-hand circular, or right-hand circular—and routes it accordingly. The device can even split apart a light beam and send parts of it in different directions, allowing for information transmission on multiple channels.

The coupler consists of a thin sheet of gold, peppered with tiny perforations. But the precise pattern of these slits, arranged rather like herringbones, is where the genius lies.

"The go-to solution until now has been a series of parallel grooves known as a grating, which does the trick but loses a large portion of the signal in the process," says principal investigator Federico Capasso, Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering at Harvard SEAS. "Now perhaps the go-to solution will be our structure. It makes it possible to control the direction of signals in a very simple and elegant way."
Because the new structure is so small—each repeating unit of the pattern is smaller than the wavelength of visible light—the researchers believe it should be easy to incorporate the design into novel technologies, such as flat optics.

Yet Capasso speaks most animatedly about the possibilities for incorporating the new coupler into future high-speed information networks that may combine nanoscale electronics (which currently exist) with optical and plasmonic elements on a single microchip.

"This has generated great excitement in the field," Capasso says.

Müller and Capasso were joined on this work by co-lead author Jiao Lin, a former SEAS postdoctoral fellow who is now at the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology; and coauthors Qian Wang and Guanghui Yuan, of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; Nicholas Antoniou, Principal FIB Engineer at the Harvard Center for Nanoscale Systems; and Xiao-Cong Yuan, a professor at the Institute of Modern Optics at Nankai University in China.

The research was supported by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (FA9550-12-1-0289), the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (61036013, 61138003), the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (2009DFA52300), and the National Research Foundation of Singapore (NRF-G-CRP 2007-01). Part of the work was performed at the Harvard Center for Nanoscale Systems, which is a member of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network, supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (ECS-0335765).

Caroline Perry | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.harvard.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Seeing the quantum future... literally
16.01.2017 | University of Sydney

nachricht Airborne thermometer to measure Arctic temperatures
11.01.2017 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

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: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

Im Focus: Newly proposed reference datasets improve weather satellite data quality

UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration

"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...

Im Focus: Repairing defects in fiber-reinforced plastics more efficiently

Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.

Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

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

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Multiregional brain on a chip

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans

16.01.2017 | Information Technology

Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>