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An optical traffic cop for rapid communication
Date:5/3/2010

handle these massive amounts of communication data, we need filters to make sense of the incoming information. Ours uses a plastic-based switch, replacing hard-to-fabricate and expensive semi-conductors."

Semi-conductors, grown on crystals in sterile labs and processed in special ovens, take days and sometimes months to manufacture. They are delicate and inflexible as well, Dr. Scheuer explains. "Our plastic polymer switches come in an easy-to-work-with liquid solution. Using a method called 'stamping,' almost any laboratory can make optical devices out of the silicon rubber mold we've developed."

The silicon rubber mold is scored with nano-sized grooves, invisible to the eye and each less than a millionth of a meter in width. A plastic solution can be poured over the mold to replicate the optical switch in minutes. When in place in a fiber-optic network, the grooves on the switch modulate light coming in through the cables, and the data is filtered and encoded into usable information.

One word of advice: "Plastics"

His biggest hurdle, says Dr. Scheuer, is in convincing the communications industry that polymers are stable materials.

"There is a lot of prejudice in this industry against plastics. But this approach could take us to a new level of communication," the researcher says. He also notes that the process is not much different from the way that mass numbers of DVDs are produced in a factory except Dr. Scheuer works on a nano, not a "giant" micro, scale.

His device can also be used in the gyros of planes, ships and rockets; inserted into cell phones; and made a part of flexible virtual reality gloves so doctors could "operate" on computer networks over large distances.


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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert

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