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The photonic beetle

tending Brigham Young University; BYU biology Professor John Gardner; and Jennifer Cha, of IBMs Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif.

Quest for the Ideal or Champion Photonic Crystal

Researchers are seeking photonic crystals as they aim to develop optical computers that run on light (photons) instead of electricity (electrons). Right now, light in near-infrared and visible wavelengths can carry data and communications through fiberoptic cables, but the data must be converted from light back to electricity before being processed in a computer.

The goal still years away is an ultrahigh-speed computer with optical integrated circuits or chips that run on light instead of electricity.

You would be able to solve certain problems that we are not able to solve now, Bartl says. For certain problems, an optical computer could do in seconds what regular computers need years for.

Researchers also are seeking ideal photonic crystals to amplify light and thus make solar cells more efficient, to capture light that would catalyze chemical reactions, and to generate tiny laser beams that would serve as light sources on optical chips.

Photonic crystals are a new type of optical materials that manipulate light in non-classic ways, Bartl says. Some colors of light can pass through a photonic crystal at various speeds, while other wavelengths are reflected as the crystal acts like a mirror.

Bartl says there are many proposals for how light could be manipulated and controlled in new ways by photonic crystals, however we still lack the proper materials that would allow us to create ideal photonic crystals to manipulate visible light. A material like this doesnt exist artificially or synthetically.

The ideal photonic crystal dubbed the champion crystal was described by scientists elsewhere in 1990. They showed that the optimal photonic crystal one that could manipulate light most efficient

Contact: Lee Siegel
University of Utah

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