Light is a funny phenomenon as it has no mass, yet it can still strike things with enough force to move them. That is what researchers at the University of Minnesota have taken advantage of in their new optical device. With two waveguides and a resonator, the researchers used optomechanical effects to amplify an optical signal, which should be very useful for the optical backbone of the Internet and other large networks.
Optical waveguides are, in effect, like electrical wires as they guide light along a certain path. Unlike an electrical wire though, the shape of the waveguide can affect how well it works, and this is where the resonator comes in. The input signal from one waveguide jumps to the resonator that amplifies it enough to physically move a second waveguide. This second waveguide can be carrying an optical signal many times more powerful than the original input signal, but the movement induced by the resonator disrupts its transmission. These disruptions match those in the original signal, effectively duplicating it but at a much higher power.
Currently the device only operates one million times per seconds, but the researchers are confident they can achieve several billion times per second. When that is achieved we may start seeing new advances in signal processing as the device uses considerably less power than modern electrical devices.