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The Lead

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...

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...

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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

A step closer to the photonic future

February 20, 2014 3:01 am | News | Comments

Photonic devices are typically built using customized methods that make them difficult and expensive to manufacture. But at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition next month, two new devices, a modulator and a tunable filter, are being presented that are not only as energy-efficient as some of the best devices around, but were built using standard CMOS process technology.

A stretchable highway for light

February 20, 2014 2:53 am | News | Comments

A team of Belgian researchers have made what may be the first optical circuit that uses interconnections that are not only bendable, but also stretchable. These new interconnections, made of a rubbery transparent material called PDMS, guide light along their path even when stretched up to 30% and when bent around an object the diameter of a human finger.

NJIT visualizes impact of electrical engineering on society

February 14, 2014 11:37 am | News | Comments

For aspiring electrical engineers, New Jersey Institute of Technology has pulled together in one “tall” infographic a brief history of the breakthroughs and impact of electrical engineering advances since the 1830s, when the telegraph marked the first time that electric currents were used to transmit messages. Since then, electrical devices have a dramatic effect on our daily lives.

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Laser-induced damage in focus

January 17, 2014 8:49 am | News | Comments

The most efficient way to convert light into different wavelengths for use in spectroscopy or laser applications is to use nonlinear optical crystals, but these tend to suffer crystal damage at high laser intensities. Oleg Louchev of the RIKEN Center in Japan and colleagues have discovered that such crystal damage arises from small localized temperature rises due to photon absorption and electric field effects within the crystal.

Toward perfect control of light waves

January 13, 2014 9:11 am | News | Comments

A team at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics in Germany has constructed a detector which provides a detailed picture of the waveforms of femtosecond laser pulses. Knowledge of the exact waveform of these pulses enables scientists to reproducibly generate light flashes that are a thousand times shorter, just attoseconds, and can be used to study ultrafast processes at the molecular and atomic levels.

Laser demonstration reveals bright future for space communication

December 26, 2013 11:07 am | by Dewayne Washington, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

The completion of the 30-day Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) mission has helped confirm laser communication capabilities from a distance of almost 250,000 miles. In addition to demonstrating record-breaking data download and upload speeds to the moon at 622 and 20 Mbps, respectively, LLCD also showed that it could operate as well as any NASA radio system.  

New terahertz generator features the highest signal quality

December 17, 2013 12:34 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Spain, working with the firm Luz WaveLabs, are developing an innovative terahertz generator that improves signal quality by one million times as compared to the best device of this kind currently on the market. They have achieved this level of quality through the use, in part, of a specialized optical frequency comb and modifications to the laser source.

Fifty meters of optical fiber shrunk to size of microchip

December 3, 2013 2:19 pm | News | Comments

DARPA-funded researchers have recently developed new methods to integrate long 50-m coils of waveguides with low signal loss onto microchips. This new class of photonic waveguides, with losses approaching that of optical fiber, is smaller and more precise than any previous light delay device.

New atomic clock design uses cold atoms to boost precision

November 6, 2013 11:21 am | News | Comments

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated a compact atomic clock design that relies on cold rubidium atoms instead of the usual hot atoms, a switch that promises improved precision and stability.

A single-atom light switch

November 5, 2013 4:34 pm | News | Comments

In a demonstration at the Vienna Univ. of Technology in Austria, scientists have shown that light can be switched between two fiber optic cables with just a single rubidium atom. The breakthrough relies on light capture devices called “bottle resonators”. The switch could enable quantum phenomena to be used for information and communication technology.

Metamaterial lens has ten times more power

October 29, 2013 8:48 am | News | Comments

A lens with ten times the resolution of any current lens, making it a powerful new tool for the biological sciences, has been developed by researchers at the Univ. of Sydney. The lens was created using fiber-optic manufacturing technology, and is a metamaterial, or a material with completely new properties not found in nature.

Photonics breakthrough could allow faster electronics

October 1, 2013 1:36 pm | News | Comments

An industry-academic partnership has created two different optical components that can be fabricated within the same processes already used in industry to create today’s electronic microprocessors. The modulators, which are structures that detect electrical signals and translate them into optical waves, use light instead of electrical wires to communicate with transistors on a single chip.

Superfast switching of a quantum light source

September 30, 2013 1:26 pm | News | Comments

Usually, an elementary light source—such as an excited atom or molecule—emits light of a particular color at an unpredictable instance in time. Recently, however, scientists have recently shown that a light source can be coaxed to emit light at a desired moment in time, within an ultrashort burst. The phenomenon has applications in fast stroboscopes, quantum systems and quantum cryptography.

Researchers demonstrate “accelerator on a chip”

September 30, 2013 8:45 am | News | Comments

In an advance that could dramatically shrink particle accelerators for science and medicine, researchers used a laser to accelerate electrons at a rate 10 times higher than conventional technology in a nanostructured glass chip smaller than a grain of rice.

Tiny camera records details of scene without losing sight of big picture

September 26, 2013 9:01 am | News | Comments

Cell phone cameras improve with every new model, but are still lacking in the fine resolution department. A team of researchers have created a miniature system that has the same quality as a full-size, wide-angle lens but is about the size of a walnut. The new system could be used to build a camera that pans and zooms with no moving parts.

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