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Device to Slow Plasmons for High-Speed Data Transmission Developed

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 01:59PM

Chances are we will never stop demanding faster devices, even if physics prevents some technologies from giving us those increases. Naturally then, other technologies need to be developed, which is why some, like plasmonics, are being worked on. Plasmons can provide the best of both electrons and photons, and now researchers at NIST have created a device that could help bring plasmonics to future computers.

Plasmons exist as a coupling of light and electrons, allowing the information of the light to be carried on metal wires far smaller than a photon could fit in. What the researchers developed is a plasmonic phase modulator, which acts like a speed bump for plasmons, though it is inverted. It consists of eleven strands of gold spanning 23 micrometers, positioned 270 nanometers above a gold surface below them, with the plasmons traveling through the gap between them. When a voltage is applied, the gold strands will bend down, toward the gold surface, constricting the plasmons and slowing them down. This also shortens their wavelength, potentially allowing another half plasmonic wave to enter at maximum voltage, which could be used to selectively cancel out the plasmon wave.

This ability to cancel out the waves means that the device can act as an optical switch, which would be of great use in plasmonic devices. Currently the prototype is pretty large, compared to modern electronics, but according to their calculations, it could be scaled down by a factor of 100 without increasing optical loss.

Source: NIST

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