News Column

Breaking the Miniaturization Barrier

May 1, 2014



University researchers have invented an ultrafast and ultrasmall optical switch that could advance the day when photons replace electrons in the internal circuitry of consumer products ranging from cellphones to automobiles. The new optical device can turn on and off trillions of times per second. It consists of individual switches that are only one five-hundredth of the width of a human hair (200 nanometers) in diameter.

The device is much smaller than the current generation of optical switches, and it breaks one of the major technical barriers to the spread of electronic devices that detect and control light: miniaturizing the size of ultrafast optical switches.

Funded by the National Science Foundation and developed by a team of scientists from Vanderbilt University, the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Los Alamos National Laboratory, the ultrafast switch is made out of an artificial material consisting of nanoscale particles of vanadium dioxide, a crystalline solid that can switch back and forth rapidly between an opaque, metallic phase and a transparent, semiconducting phase. Particles are deposited on a glass substrate and coated with a nanomesh of tiny gold nanoparticles. Bathing the gilded nanoparticles with brief pulses from an ultrafast laser generates hot electrons in the nanomesh that jump into the vanadium dioxide and cause it to undergo its phase change in a few trillionths of a second.

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: Signal

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters