World’s Smallest Integrated Optical Switch Created

Posted: Feb 2 2016, 7:31am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News


World’s Smallest Integrated Optical Switch Created
The switch is based on the voltage-induced displacement of one or more silver atoms in the narrow gap between a silver and a platinum plate. Credit: Alexandros Emboras / ETH Zurich
  • Tiniest Integrated Optical Switch is Operational at Atomic Level

The world’s tiniest integrated optical switch is operational at an atomic level.

The experts know their stuff alright. Now they have created the first smallest integrated optical switch on a global level. It operates via a minimal amount of voltage which causes the switch to be turned on or off. The data span across the globe is increasing at breakneck speed.

As the global village truly takes on the aspects of a small world, the technology is also turning into a form of nanotechnology. Mobile communications and wired links are up by 57% and 23% respectively on an annual basis.  

This high growth market will not stop anytime soon. Thus the components of the process must undergo innovation constantly. Efficiency is the watchword.

One of the most important parts of these systems is a modulator. Modulators transfer information available in electrical form into optical data signals.

These are thus very fast electrical switches that activate and deactivate laser signals at the drop of a hat. The frequency is the same as that of the incoming electrical signals. These modulators have numbers that go into the thousands in the data centers where they are housed. 

The only problem is that modulators are large. They are several inches across and take up a lot of excessive storage space. About 180 days ago a group of researchers proved that the technology for this could be minimized.

The replica technology is also more efficient. A micro-modulator got built. It was just 10 micrometers across. This is more than 10,000 times smaller than your average modulator.

The process was further enhanced by creating the world’s smallest optical modulator. It cannot get any smaller than this since it exists at the atomic level. 

The stuff that has been built operates at the scale of individual atoms. The research was presented in a journal. In ordinary circumstances, a device cannot be smaller than the wavelengths it transmits.

But here even this law has been broken. The limit only existed in the mind. It did not transpire in reality. The reconfiguration of a modulator proved to be a tough but possible task.

At the level of atoms, things get tricky. Two pads, one made of silver and the other one of platinum, were employed in the design of this baby. A few nanometers separate the two pads.

Light from an optical fiber enters the gap. It is converted to a surface plasmon. The plasmon enters a feedback loop. Now the switch can be turned off or on at will using this atomic mechanism.

The whole system was created using a powerful computer. Even now though, it needs some degree of streamlining before it can have any use value. 

This new study got published in the journal Nano Letters.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
Sumayah Aamir (Google+) has deep experience in analyzing the latest trends.




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