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The Lead

A transistor-like amplifier for single photons

July 28, 2014 11:19 am | by Olivia Meyer-Streng, Max Planck Institute | News | Comments

With the help of ultracold quantum gas, physicists have achieved a 20-fold amplification of single-photon signals, a step that could aid all-optical data processing efforts. The breakthrough was made with the invention of a new type of optical transistor build from a cloud of rubidium atoms, held just above absolute zero, that is transparent to certain wavelengths of light.

Graphene surfaces on photonic racetracks

July 28, 2014 11:12 am | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.K. recently published work...

Researchers pioneer a Google street view of galaxies

July 23, 2014 9:55 am | by Verity Leatherdale, Univ. of Sydney | News | Comments

A new home-grown instrument based on bundles of optical fibers is giving Australian astronomers...

Breakthrough in the development of stretchable optical waveguides

July 16, 2014 10:33 am | News | Comments

Scientists in Belgium have recently fabricated the...

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New nonlinear metamaterial is a million times better than traditional options

July 2, 2014 3:48 pm | News | Comments

Nonlinear optical materials are widely used in laser systems, but they require high light intensity and long propagation to be effective. A team in Germany and Texas has designed a new 400-nm thick nonlinear mirror that delivers frequency-doubled output using input light intensity as small as that of a laser pointer. Compared to traditional nonlinear materials, the new option offers a million times increase in nonlinear optical response.

Hundreds of sensors packed into a single optical fiber

June 26, 2014 2:37 pm | News | Comments

By fusing together the concepts of active fiber sensors and high-temperature fiber sensors, a team of researchers at the Univ. of Pittsburgh has created an all-optical high-temperature sensor for gas flow measurements that operates at record-setting temperatures above 800 C. The new technology should be ideal for use in deep drilling operations, nuclear reactor cores and outer space.

Using femtosecond lasers to administer drugs

June 25, 2014 7:59 am | by Kathleen Estes, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

A team of scientists in Japan and New Zealand have combined lasers, nanotechnology, and neuroscience to develop a new, versatile drug delivery system. The precise timing of a femtosecond laser is used to release dopamine, a neurochemical, that is dysfunctional in Parkinson’s Disease in a controlled and repeatable manner that mimics the natural dynamic release mechanism.

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Nanofibers for quantum computing

June 17, 2014 4:12 pm | News | Comments

A proposed hybrid quantum processor for a future quantum computer uses trapped atoms as the memory and superconducting qubits as the processor. The concept requires, however, an optical trap that is able to work well with superconductors, which don’t like magnetic fields or high optical power. Joint Quantum Institute scientists believe they’ve developed an effective method for creating these ultra-high transmission optical nanofibers.

Crystal IS introduces Optan LED technology

June 11, 2014 3:15 pm | Product Releases | Comments

Crystal IS has introduced Optan, the first commercial semiconductor based on native aluminum nitride (AIN) substrates. Optan increases detection sensitivity from monitoring of chemicals in pharma manufacturing to drinking water analysis.

A new way to make laser-like beams using 250x less power

June 6, 2014 9:03 am | News | Comments

With precarious particles called polaritons that straddle the worlds of light and matter, Univ. of Michigan researchers have demonstrated a new, practical and potentially more efficient way to make a coherent laser-like beam. They have made what's believed to be the first polariton laser that is fueled by electrical current as opposed to light, and also works at room temperature, rather than way below zero.

Photonics experts build world's most sensitive thermometer

June 5, 2014 7:51 am | by Jack Baldwin, The Lead | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Adelaide in South Australia have created a thermometer three times more precise than any existing device, able to measure temperature to 30 billionths of a degree. Using the phenomenon called a “whispering gallery”, which projects sounds, the scientists have designed a crystalline disk that concentrates and reinforces light, allowing them to track a minute difference in speed between red light and green light.

Optical antennas trap and control light with the help of graphene

May 23, 2014 12:35 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Spain have introduced a platform technology based on optical antennas for trapping and controlling light with graphene. Their experiments show that the dramatically squeezed graphene-guided light can be focused and bent, following the fundamental principles of conventional optics. The work opens new opportunities for smaller and faster photonic devices and circuits.

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R&D 100 featured winner: RTI’s NLite nanofiber lighting technology

May 1, 2014 8:56 am | Videos | Comments

Of all the electricity generated in the U.S., more than quarter is consumed by lighting. In 2010, North Carolina’s RTI International launched a new product, NLite, intended to help alleviate this burden by improving the reflectance performance of power-intensive lighting devices such as luminaires and liquid crystal displays. The technology, based on nanofiber reflectance polymers, won a 2011 R&D 100 Award.

Optical traps on chip manipulate many molecules at once

April 30, 2014 2:43 pm | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

A popular technique for studying single molecules is optical trapping. This is a traditionally delicate process, requiring special equipment, a soundproof room and patience as data collected one molecule at a time. Physicists have now shrunk the technology of an optical trap onto a single chip. Instead of just one molecule at a time, the new device can potentially trap hundreds of molecules at once, reducing month-long experiments to days.

New fluorescent hybrid material changes color according to light direction

April 30, 2014 2:39 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Spain have developed a highly fluorescent hybrid material that changes color depending on the polarization of the light that it is illuminated by. They achieved this with a perfect fit between an inorganic nanostructure and dye molecules.

Information storage for the next generation of plastic computers

April 17, 2014 9:41 am | by Gary Galluzzo, Univ. of Iowa | News | Comments

Although it is relatively cheap and easy to encode information in light for fiber optic transmission, storing information is most efficiently done using magnetism, which ensures information will survive for years without any additional power. But a new proposal by researchers would replace silicon used in these devices with plastic. Their solution converts magnetic information to light in a flexible plastic device.

Combs of light accelerate communication

April 14, 2014 11:39 am | News | Comments

In a recent demonstration by researchers in Europe, miniaturized optical frequency comb sources allow for transmission of data streams of several terabits per second over hundreds of kilometers. The results, which showed a data rate of 1.44 TB/sec over 300 km, may contribute to accelerating data transmission in large computing centers and worldwide communication networks.

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New physical phenomenon on nanowires seen for the first time

April 11, 2014 1:06 pm | News | Comments

For optical communication to happen, it is essential to convert electrical information into light, using emitters. On the other end of the optical link, one needs to translate the light stream into electrical signals using detectors. Current technologies use different materials to realize these two distinct functions, but this might soon change thanks to a new discovery by researchers at IBM.

Tetris in the sky: Gamers play on Philly building

April 7, 2014 9:21 am | by Kathy Matheson, Associated Press | News | Comments

Hundreds of Tetris fans who had a little fun Saturday with a big version of the classic video game on the side of the 29-story Cira Centre in Philadelphia. LED lights embedded in the building's glass facade normally display colorful patterns. On Saturday night, images of super-sized shapes "fell" on two sides of the mirrored tower as competitors used joysticks to maneuver them, creating a spectacle against the night sky.

Researchers develop first phononic crystal that can be altered in real time

April 1, 2014 8:56 am | News | Comments

Using an acoustic metadevice that can influence the acoustic space and can control any of the ways in which waves travel, engineers have demonstrated, for the first time, that it is possible to dynamically alter the geometry of a 3-D colloidal crystal in real time. The crystals designed in the study, called metamaterials, are artificially structured materials that extend the properties of naturally occurring materials and compounds.  

Micro systems with big commercial potential featured in SPIE journal

March 26, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Commercial demand is driving high-tech research and development in micro-optoelectromechanical systems (MOEMS) for diverse applications such as space exploration, wireless systems, and healthcare. A new special section on Emerging MOEMS Technology and Applications in the current issue of the Journal of Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS, and MOEMS discusses these recent breakthrough achievements.

Nanoscale optical switch breaks miniaturization barrier

March 14, 2014 10:15 am | by David Salisbury, Vanderbilt Univ. | News | Comments

An ultra-fast and ultra-small optical switch has been invented that could advance the day when photons replace electrons in the innards of consumer products ranging from cell phones to automobiles. The new optical device can turn on and off trillions of times per second and consists of tiny individual switches made of a metamaterial that uses vanadium dioxide.

Bending the light with a tiny chip

March 11, 2014 7:56 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Imagine that you are in a meeting with coworkers or at a gathering of friends. You pull out your cell phone to show a presentation or a video on YouTube. But you don't use the tiny screen; your phone projects a bright, clear image onto a wall or a big screen. Such a technology may be on its way, thanks to a new light-bending silicon chip developed by researchers at the California Institute of Technology.

Squeezing light into metals

March 7, 2014 7:50 am | News | Comments

Using an inexpensive inkjet printer, Univ. of Utah electrical engineers produced microscopic structures that use light in metals to carry information. This new technique, which controls electrical conductivity within such microstructures, could be used to rapidly fabricate superfast components in electronic devices, make wireless technology faster or print magnetic materials.

Novel optical fibers transmit high-quality images

February 26, 2014 8:06 am | News | Comments

After having recently discovered a new way to propagate multiple beams of light through a single strand of optical fiber, engineers at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee now have found that their novel fiber architecture can transmit images with a quality that is comparable or better than the current commercial endoscopy imaging fibers.

A cavity that you want

February 25, 2014 4:53 pm | by Cory Nealon, Univ. of Buffalo | News | Comments

Associated with unhappy visits to the dentist, “cavity” means something else in the science of optics. An arrangement of mirrors that allows beams of light to circulate in closed paths, or cavities, help us build laser and optical fibers. Now, a research team pushed the concept further by developing an optical “nanocavity” that boosts the amount of light that ultrathin semiconductors absorb.

New record set for data-transfer speeds

February 25, 2014 1:31 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at IBM have set a new record for data transmission over a multimode optical fiber, a type of cable that is typically used to connect nearby computers within a single building or on a campus. The data was sent at a rate of 64 Gb/s over a cable 57-m long using a type of laser called a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser. This rate is 2.5 times faster than the capabilities of today's typical commercial technology.

Want your computer to go faster? Just add light

February 25, 2014 1:26 pm | by Angela Herring, Northeastern Univ. | News | Comments

Last year, a physicist and a mechanical engineer at Northeastern Univ. com­bined their expertise to integrate electronic and optical properties on a single electronic chip, enabling them to switch electrically using light alone. Now, they have built three new devices that implement this fast technology: an AND-gate, an OR-gate and a camera-like sensor made of 250,000 miniature devices.

A new laser for a faster Internet

February 20, 2014 8:16 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

A new laser developed by a research group at Caltech holds the potential to increase by orders of magnitude the rate of data transmission in the optical-fiber network: the backbone of the Internet. The high-coherence new laser converts current to light using III-V material, but in a fundamental departure from S-DFB lasers, it stores the light in a layer of silicon, which does not absorb light.

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