Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pushing Light Beyond Its Known Limits

13.11.2009
Scientists at the University of Adelaide have made a breakthrough that could change the world's thinking on what light is capable of.

The researchers in the University's new Institute for Photonics & Advanced Sensing (IPAS) have discovered that light within optical fibers can be squeezed into much tighter spaces than was previously believed possible.

Optical fibers usually act like pipes for light, with the light bouncing around inside the pipe. As you shrink down the size of the fiber, the light becomes more and more confined too, until you reach the ultimate limit – the point beyond which light cannot be squeezed any smaller.

This ultimate point occurs when the strand of glass is just a few hundred nanometers in diameter, about one thousandth of the size of a human hair. If you go smaller than this, light begins to spread out again.

The Adelaide researchers have discovered they can now push beyond that limit by at least a factor of two.

They can do this due to new breakthroughs in the theoretical understanding of how light behaves at the nanoscale, and thanks to the use of a new generation of nanoscale optical fibers being developed at the Institute.

This discovery is expected to lead to more efficient tools for optical data processing in telecommunications networks and optical computing, as well as new light sources.

IPAS Research Fellow Dr Shahraam Afshar has made this discovery ahead of today's launch of the new Institute for Photonics & Advanced Sensing.

The Australian Government, South Australian Government, Defence Science & Technology Organisation (DSTO), Defence SA and the University of Adelaide have committed a combined total of more than $38 million to support the establishment of the new Institute.

IPAS is a world leader in the science and application of light, developing unique lasers, optical fibers and sensors to measure various aspects of the world around us. A strong focus of the new Institute is in collaboration with other fields of research to find solutions to a range of problems.

"By being able to use our optical fibers as sensors – rather than just using them as pipes to transmit light – we can develop tools that, for example, could easily detect the presence of a flu virus at an airport; could help IVF (in vitro fertilization) specialists to determine which egg should be chosen for fertilization; could gauge the safety of drinking water; or could alert maintenance crews to corrosion occurring in the structure of an aircraft," says Professor Tanya Monro, Federation Fellow at the University of Adelaide and Director of IPAS.

Professor Monro says Dr Afshar's discovery is "a fundamental breakthrough in the science of light".

Another IPAS researcher, Dr Yinlan Ruan, has recently created what is thought to be the world's smallest hole inside an optical fiber – just 25 nanometers in diameter.

"These breakthroughs feed directly into our applied work to develop nanoscale sensors, and they are perfect examples of the culture of research excellence that exists among our team members," Professor Monro says.

"They will enable us to study the applications of light at much smaller scales than we've ever thought possible. It will help us to better understand and probe our world in ever smaller dimensions."

Media contact:

Professor Tanya Monro
Director, Institute for Photonics & Advanced Sensing
The University of Adelaide
Phone: +61 8 8303 3955
tanya.monro@adelaide.edu.au

Professor Tanya Monro | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.adelaide.edu.au

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Nanostructures taste the rainbow
29.06.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions
28.06.2017 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

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: Making Waves

Computer scientists use wave packet theory to develop realistic, detailed water wave simulations in real time. Their results will be presented at this year’s SIGGRAPH conference.

Think about the last time you were at a lake, river, or the ocean. Remember the ripples of the water, the waves crashing against the rocks, the wake following...

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nanostructures taste the rainbow

29.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technique unveils 'matrix' inside tissues and tumors

29.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Cystic fibrosis alters the structure of mucus in airways

29.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>