The next time an overnight snow begins to fall, take two bricks and place them side by side a few inches apart in your yard.
In the morning, the bricks will be covered with snow and barely discernible. The snowflakes will have filled every vacant space between and around the bricks.
What you will see, says Ivan Biaggio, resembles a phenomenon that, when it occurs at the smallest of scales on an integrated optical circuit, could hasten the day when the Internet works at superfast speeds.
Biaggio, an associate professor of physics at Lehigh University, is part of an international team of researchers that has developed an organic material with an unprecedented combination of high optical quality and strong ability to mediate light-light interaction and has engineered the integration of this material with silicon technology so it can be used in optical telecommunication devices.
A description of this material was published on the Nature Photonics Web site March 15.
The material, which is composed of small organic molecules with high nonlinear optical susceptibilities, mimics the behavior of the snowflakes covering the bricks when it is deposited into the slot, or gap, that separate silicon waveguides that control the propagation of light beams on an integrated optical circuit.
Just as the snowflakes, being tiny and mobile, fill every empty space between the two bricks, Biaggio says, the molecules completely and homogeneously fill the slot between the waveguides. The slots measure only tens of nanometers wide; 1 nm is one one-billionth of a meter, or about the width of a dozen carbon atoms.
"We have been able to make thin films by combining the molecules into a material that is perfectly transparent, flat, and free of any irregularities that would affect optical properties," says Biaggio.
The slot between the waveguides is the region where most of the light guided by the silicon propag
|Contact: Kurt Pfitzer|