“We see a future where ‘consumer electronics’ become ‘consumer photonics’
Computers may be getting faster every year, but those advances in computer speed could be dwarfed if their 1’s and 0’s were represented by bursts of light, instead of electricity.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have made an important advance in this frontier of photonics, fashioning the first all-optical photonic switch out of cadmium sulfide nanowires. Moreover, they combined these photonic switches into a logic gate, a fundamental component of computer chips that process information.
The research was conducted by associate professor Ritesh Agarwal and graduate student Brian Piccione of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. Post-doctoral fellows Chang-Hee Cho and Lambert van Vugt, also of the Materials Science Department, contributed to the study.
It was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
The research team’s innovation built upon their earlier research, which showed that their cadmium sulfide nanowires exhibitedextremely strong light-matter coupling, making them especially efficient at manipulating light. This quality is crucial for the development of nanoscale photonic circuits, as existing mechanisms for controlling the flow of light are bulkier and require more energy than their electronic analogs.
“The biggest challenge for photonic structures on the nanoscale is getting the light in, manipulating it once it’s there and then getting it out,” Agarwal said. “Our major innovation was how we solved the first problem, in that it allowed us to use the nanowires themselves for an on-chip light source.”
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