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Researchers Use Sound Waves to Advance Optical Communication


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University of Illinois student Benjamin Sohn holds a device that uses sound waves to produce optical diodes.

University of Illinois researchers have demonstrated that sound waves can produce optical diodes small enough to fit onto a computer chip.

Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

Researchers at the University of Illinois have demonstrated that sound waves can produce ultraminiature optical diodes small enough to fit onto a computer chip.

They say these optical isolators could help solve significant data capacity and system size challenges for photonic integrated circuits.

Isolators protect laser sources from back reflections and are necessary for routing light signals around optical networks.

The researchers developed a method involving the minuscule coupling between light and sound to provide a solution that enables nonreciprocal devices with nearly any photonic material.

The new device, which is only 200 by 100 microns in size, uses aluminum nitride, a transparent material that transmits light and is compatible with photonics foundries.

The researchers are studying ways to increase bandwidth or data capacity of these isolators, and they want to use the new technology to create transformative applications in photonic communications, gyroscopes, global-positioning systems, atomic timekeeping, and data centers.

From University of Illinois News Bureau
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