New Haven, Conn. Science fiction writers have long envisioned sailing a spacecraft by the optical force of the sun's light. But, the forces of sunlight are too weak to fill even the oversized sails that have been tried. Now a team led by researchers at the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science has shown that the force of light indeed can be harnessed to drive machines when the process is scaled to nano-proportions.
Their work opens the door to a new class of semiconductor devices that are operated by the force of light. They envision a future where this process powers quantum information processing and sensing devices, as well as telecommunications that run at ultra-high speed and consume little power.
The research, appearing in the November 27 issue of Nature, demonstrates a marriage of two emerging fields of research nanophotonics and nanomechanics. which makes possible the extreme miniaturization of optics and mechanics on a silicon chip.
The energy of light has been harnessed and used in many ways. The "force" of light is different it is a push or a pull action that causes something to move.
"While the force of light is far too weak for us to feel in everyday life, we have found that it can be harnessed and used at the nanoscale," said team leader Hong Tang, assistant professor at Yale. "Our work demonstrates the advantage of using nano-objects as "targets" for the force of light using devices that are a billion-billion times smaller than a space sail, and that match the size of today's typical transistors."
Until now light has only been used to maneuver single tiny objects with a focused laser beam a technique called "optical tweezers." Postdoctoral scientist and lead author, Mo Li noted, "Instead of moving particles with light, now we integrate everything
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