"When researchers talk about optical forces, they are generally referring to the radiation pressure light applies in the direction of the flow of light," said Tang. "The new force we have investigated actually kicks out to the side of that light flow."
While this new optical force was predicted by several theories, the proof required state-of-the-art nanophotonics to confine light with ultra-high intensity within nanoscale photonic wires. The researchers showed that when the concentrated light was guided through a nanoscale mechanical device, significant light force could be generated enough, in fact, to operate nanoscale machinery on a silicon chip.
The light force was routed in much the same way electronic wires are laid out on today's large scale integrated circuits. Because light intensity is much higher when it is guided at the nanoscale, they were able to exploit the force. "We calculate that the illumination we harness is a million times stronger than direct sunlight," adds Wolfram Pernice, a Humboldt postdoctoral fellow with Tang.
"We create hundreds of devices on a single chip, and all of them work," says Tang, who attributes this success to a great optical I/O device design provided by their collaborators at the University of Washington.
It took more than 60 years to progress from the first transistors to the speed and power of today's computers. Creating devices that run solely on light rather than electronics will now begin a similar process of development, according to the authors.
"While this development has brought us a new device concept and a giant step forward in speed, the next developments will be in improving the mechanical aspects of the system. But," says Tang, "the photon force is with us."
|Contact: Janet Rettig Emanuel|