PHILADELPHIA - Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have theorized a way to increase the speed of pulses of light that bound across chains of tiny metal particles to well past the speed of light by altering the particle shape. Application of this theory would use nanosized metal chains as building blocks for novel optoelectronic and optical devices, which would operate at higher frequencies than conventional electronic circuits. Such devices could eventually find applications in the developing area of high-speed optical computing, in which protons and light replace electrons and transistors for greater performance.
Colleagues in the Department of Bioengineering, Alexander A. Govyadinov and Vadim A. Markel, also of the Department of Radiology at Penn, published the study in a recent issue of the journal Physical Review B.
Recent developments in nanotechnology have enabled researchers to fabricate nanoparticle chains with great precision and fidelity. Penn's research team took advantage of this technological advance by utilizing metallic nanoparticles as a chain of miniature waveguides that exchange light.
Currently, the advance is theoretical. But, from a practical standpoint, the creation of a metallic nanochain would provide the combination of smaller-diameter optical components coupled with larger bandwidth, making them optimal wave guiding materials. As the velocity of the light pulse increases, so too does the operating bandwidth of a waveguide. Increasing the bandwidth helps to increase the number of information channels, allowing more information to flow simultaneously through a waveguide.
Researchers investigated changing the shape of particles in an attempt to increase this bandwidth. Spherically-shaped nanoparticles, the shape used almost exclusively in early research, provide narrow bandwidths of light. As Markel and Govyadinov discovered, shaping the particles as prolate, cigar-shaped or oblat
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University of Pennsylvania