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Groundbreaking Optical Device Could Enhance Optical Information Processing, Computers

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Coupled microresonators with balanced loss and gain form a parity-time symmetric system.

A new optical device developed at Washington University in St. Louis could lead to more powerful computers that run faster and cooler.

Credit: B. Peng, S.K. Ozdemir, L. Yang/WUSTL

Washington University in St. Louis researchers have developed an optical device that could lead to new and more powerful computers that run faster and cooler.

The researchers created an optical diode by coupling tiny doughnut-shaped optical resonators on a silicon chip. "This diode is capable of completely eliminating light transmission in one direction and greatly enhancing light transmission in the other nonreciprocal light transmission," says Washington University researcher Bo Peng.

An electrical diode prevents electricity from backflow along a wire, providing protection to crucial parts of an electronic circuit or processor, while an optical diode provides the same function for light. "We believe that our discovery will benefit many other fields involving electronics, acoustics, plasmonics, and meta-materials," Peng says.

To make the optical diode, the researchers used two micro-resonators positioned so light can flow from one to the other. "At present, we built our optical diodes from silica, which has very little material loss at the telecommunication wavelength," Peng says.

The researchers believe their method can be extended to electronics, acoustics, and other fields to create one-way channels, and photonic devices with advanced functionalities.

From Washington University in St. Louis
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