Canadian Consulting Engineer

Light-based Internet one step closer

Researchers at the University of Toronto and Carleton University in Ottawa have taken a big step in the work to dev...

September 30, 2004  Canadian Consulting Engineer

Researchers at the University of Toronto and Carleton University in Ottawa have taken a big step in the work to develop a supercharged Internet based entirely on light.
Professor Ted Sargent of U of T’s department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and his colleague Qiying Chen studied the optical properties of a new hybrid material in order to use one laser beam to direct another — a feature needed inside future fibre-optic networks.
Until now materials have failed to live up to theoretical predictions of the power of light to control light — a discrepancy known as the “Kuzyk quantum gap” in molecular nonlinear optics.
“Molecular materials used to switch light signals with light have been weaker than fundamental physics say they could be,” says Sargent in an article in the August 11 issue of University of Toronto News, written by Kristi Gourlay.
To breach the Kuzyk quantum gap, Gourlay reports, Carleton University chemistry professor Wayne Wang and his colleague Connie Kuang designed a material that combined nanometre-sized spherical particles with a designed class of polymer. The combination made a clear, smooth film designed to make light particles pick up each other’s patterns.
Sargent and his colleagues studied the optical properties of the hybrid material and found it was able to process information carried at telecommunications wavelengths — the infrared colours of light used in fibre-optic systems.
Experts anticipate that fibre-optic communication systems could relay signals around the global network with picosecond (one trillionth of a second) switching times. The result would be an internet 100 times faster than it is now.
In order to harness that kind of power, researchers need to find ways to avoid unnecessary conversions of signals between optical and electronic form.
Sargent’s research study was published in Nano Letters on August 11, 2004.



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