Canadian Consulting Engineer

Nanotechnology engineers work towards optical computer chip

Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a hybrid plastic that holds great promise for increasing th...

May 20, 2003   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a hybrid plastic that holds great promise for increasing the speed of computer communications.
The plastic can produce light at wavelengths used for fibre optic communications, paving the way for an optical computer chip. The plastic, which was developed by a joint team of engineers and chemists, is embedded with quantum dots that convert electrons into photons. The researchers hope it will enable high-speed computers to be directly linked with networks that transmit information using light.
Announcing the research results, Ted Sargent, a professor in the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the university, said “While others have worked in quantum dots before, we have shown how quantum dots can be tuned and incorporated into the right materials to address the whole set of communication wavelengths. … Our study is the first to demonstrate experimentally that we can convert electrical current into light using a particularly promising class of nanocrystals.”
The colours of light that the researchers generated range from 1.3 microns to 1.6 microns in wavelength, the full range of colours used to communicate information using light.
“The work is an important step towards integrating many fibre-optic communications devices on one chip,” said Sargent. “Our research is based on nanotechnology: engineering based on the length of a nanometer — one billionth of a meter.”
The team created nanocrystals of lead sulphhide using a technique that allowed them to work at room pressure and temperatures less than 150 degrees Celsius. To stabilize the unstable surfaces of the crystals, they placed a special layer of molecules around the nanocrystals.
See www.newsandevents.utoronto.ca


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