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Nanoscale waveguide for future photonics
Date:5/31/2011

says Volker Sorger a graduate student in Zhang's research group and one of the two lead authors on the Nature Communications paper. "The propagation lengths were 10 times the vacuum wavelength of visible light and 20 times that of near infrared."

The high-technology world is eagerly anticipating the replacement of today's electronic circuits in microprocessors and other devices with circuits based on the transmission of light and other forms of electromagnetic waves. Photonic technology, or "photonics," promises to be superfast and ultrasensitive in comparison to electronic technology.

"To meet the ever-growing demand for higher data bandwidth and lower power consumption, we need to reduce the energy required to create, transmit and detect each bit of information," says Sorger. "This requires reducing physical photonic component sizes down beyond the diffraction limit of light while still providing integrated functionality."

Until recently, the size and performance of photonic devices was constrained by the interference that arises between closely spaced light waves. This diffraction limit results in weak photonic-electronic interactions that can only be avoided through the use of devices much larger in size than today's electronic circuits. A breakthrough came with the discovery that it is possible to couple photons with electrons by squeezing light waves through the interface between a metal/dielectric nanostructure whose dimensions are smaller than half the wavelengths of the incident photons in free space.

Directing waves of light across the surface of a metal nanostructure generates electronic surface waves called plasmons - that roll through the metal's conduction electrons (those loosely attached to molecules and atoms). The resulting interaction between plasmons and photons creates a quasi-particle called a surface plasmon polariton(SPP) that can serve as a carrier of information. Hopes were high for SPPs in nano
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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