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'Slow Light' on a Chip Holds Promise for Optical Communications


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spectroscopy chip wafer

Each of the 32 units fabricated on this four-inch silicon wafer is an integrated atomic spectroscopy chip that can be used to control the speed of light pulses.

Credit: C. Lagattuta / University of California Santa Cruz

Scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) and Brigham Young University have developed an optical device that has the slowest-ever light propagation on a chip, reducing the speed of light by a factor of 1,200.

"Slow light and other quantum coherence effects have been known for quite awhile, but in order to use them in practical applications we have to be able to implement them on a platform that can be mass produced and will work at room temperature or higher, and that's what our chips accomplish," says UCSC professor Holger Schmidt. The device uses quantum interference effects in a rubidium vapor inside a hollow-core optical waveguide that is built into a silicon chip.

The research is the first demonstration of electromagnetically induced transparency and slow light on a fully self-contained atomic spectroscopy chip. "We can potentially use this to create all-optical switches, single-photon detectors, quantum memory devices, and other exciting possibilities," Schmidt says.

From University of California, Santa Cruz
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