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WSU Physicists Write With Light, Turn Crystal Into an Electrical Circuit


At left, a sample with four metal contacts. At right, a laser drawing a conductive path between two contacts.

Washington State University's development of a method for writing an electrical circuit into a crystal opens up the possibility of transparent, three-dimensional electronics that can be erased and reconfigured.

Credit: Washington State University

Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) have developed a method for writing an electrical circuit into a crystal, a breakthrough they say could clear a path toward the possibility of transparent, three-dimensional electronics that can be erased and reconfigured.

The researchers used a laser to etch a line in the crystal and found that when they attached electrical contacts to each end of the line, it carried a current.

"It opens up a new type of electronics where you can define a circuit optically and then erase it and define a new one," says WSU professor Matt McClusky. He notes a crystal does not normally conduct electricity, but when the crystal strontium titanate is heated under the right conditions, it is altered so light will make it conductive.

McClusky estimates the new research increases the crystal's conductivity 1,000-fold and can sustain it for up to a year.

From WSU News
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