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[ethz.ch] Switching light with a silver atom

post #1 of 5
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Quote:
Six months ago, a working group led by Jürg Leuthold, Professor of Photonics and Communications already succeeded in proving that the technology could be made smaller and more energy-efficient. As part of that work, the researchers presented a micromodulator measuring just 10 micrometres across – or 10,000 times smaller than modulators in commercial use

Here’s how the modulator works: light entering from an optical fibre is guided to the entrance of the gap by the optical waveguide. Above the metallic surface, the light turns into a surface plasmon. A plasmon occurs when light transfers energy to electrons in the outermost atomic layer of the metal surface, causing the electrons to oscillate at the frequency of the incident light. These electron oscillations have a far smaller diameter than the ray of light itself. This allows them to enter the gap and pass through the bottleneck. On the other side of the gap, the electron oscillations can be converted back into optical signals.
If a voltage is now applied to the silver pad, a single silver atom or, at most, a few silver atoms move towards the tip of the point and position themselves at the end of it. This creates a short circuit between the silver and platinum pads, so that electrical current flows between them. This closes the loophole for the plasmon; the switch flips and the state changes from “on” to “off” or vice versa. As soon as the voltage falls below a certain threshold again, a silver atom moves back. The gap opens, the plasmon flows, and the switch is “on” again. This process can be repeated millions of times.

The article states that it only works for switching frequencies in the megahertz range or below currently. I can imagine this will have a great effect on future computing as they start to integrate optics into machines, as well as improving future optic technology that is currently in use.

Source
Edited by N3G4T1v3 - 2/8/16 at 8:39am
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post #2 of 5
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post #3 of 5
Source, I think. Will read and edit opinions in, brb.

EDIT: I'm back. Sounds nifty, not totally sure how it works. If I understand it correctly, it's a bit like a single-atom relay using quantum magic to spit out photons. Efficiency should be pretty good for a device this small, meaning there's even less of a reason to not use fiber if this proves to be an effective, marketable device.
Edited by CynicalUnicorn - 2/8/16 at 8:11am
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post #4 of 5
seems like an unreliable method.
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post #5 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by CynicalUnicorn View Post

Source, I think. Will read and edit opinions in, brb.

EDIT: I'm back. Sounds nifty, not totally sure how it works. If I understand it correctly, it's a bit like a single-atom relay using quantum magic to spit out photons. Efficiency should be pretty good for a device this small, meaning there's even less of a reason to not use fiber if this proves to be an effective, marketable device.

Photon to electron carrying the signal. The electrons travel along the silver plate. If no silver atom short cut to the platinum plate, the electrons pass through the bottleneck freely thus transmitting the signal.
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