People debating politics are well-advised to shed more light than heat. Engineers working in optical technologies have the same aspiration.
Light waves transmit data with much greater speed than do electrical signals, says Qiaoqiang Gan, a Ph.D. candidate at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. If they are guided with sufficient precision inside the tiny circuits of an electronic chip, they can bring about applications in spectroscopy, sensing and medical imaging. And they can hasten the advent of faster all-optical telecommunication networks, in which light signals transmit and route data without needing to be converted to electrical signals and back.
To enable light waves to store and transmit data with optimal efficiency, engineers must learn to slow or stop light waves across the various regions of the spectrum.
Gan and his adviser, Filbert J. Bartoli, department chair of electrical and computer engineering, made a major contribution to this effort last year when they developed a graded metal grating structure capable of slowing or stopping terahertz (THz) light waves. The achievement, said Bartoli, "opened a door to the control of light waves on a chip" that could help reduce the size of optical structures, enabling them to be integrated at the nanoscale with electronic devices.
Gan and Bartoli reported their results in June in Physical Review Letters (PRL), an influential international journal. Their article was coauthored by Yujie J. Ding, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Zhan Fu, a Ph.D. candidate advised by Ding. The researchers are affiliated with Lehigh's Center for Optical Technologies.
Recently, Bartoli's team recorded a second major advance. Working again with Ding, they demonstrated that their grating structure could be scaled down in size to a dimension compatible with light waves in the telecommunications portion of the spectrum.
THz waves measure several hundred m
|Contact: Kurt Pfitzer|