Russian breakthrough sees silicon nanoparticles juggle light

23 Aug 2016

A Russian team of physicists have successfully demonstrated the use of silicon nanoparticles as tools to create all-optical signalling. In short, processing data as fast as it’s sent.

In what could prove a major step forward in the physics underpinning our digital age, researchers at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) have found a way to utilise silicon nanoparticles to huge effect.

Using what’s called a dielectric nanoantenna – an optically-resonant spherical nanoparticle made of silicon – the team was able to switch between various ‘light-scattering’ modes.

Future Human

Processing Speed

This, when married with the transferring of data in an optical fashion, could make for revolutionary processing times in future.

The study suggests an antenna of this kind would have a bandwidth of about 250Gbps, whereas conventional silicon-based electronics rely on components with bandwidths limited to only tens of Gbps, according to the researchers.

“It is a top priority – and at the same time a major challenge – to develop such tuneable antennas operating at infrared and optical frequencies,” said Denis Baranov, a PhD student at MIPT and one of the authors of the study published in ACS Photonics.

“Nowadays, we can already transmit information through fibre optics at incredible speeds of up to hundreds of Gbps. However, silicon-based electronics are unable to process the incoming data at that rate.”

From left to right, Alexander Krasnok, Denis Baranov, Sergey Makarov - cooperative team of young scientists from ITMO University and Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

(l-r) Alexander Krasnok, Denis Baranov and Sergey Makarov, researchers from ITMO University and MIPT, have made a light-juggling breakthrough.

“Non-linear nanoantennas that work at optical wavelengths could help us to resolve this problem and make ultrafast all-optical signal processing possible.”

These silicon-nanoparticles-based devices would allow someone to transmit, reflect, or scatter incident light in a specified direction, depending on its intensity.

They could be integrated into microchips that would enable ultrafast all-optical signal processing in optical communication lines and the next-generation optical computers.

“The research shows that silicon nanoparticles might well become the basis for developing ultrafast optical nanodevices,” said Sergey Makarov, a senior researcher who worked on the paper.

“Our model can be used to design nanostructures containing silicon particles that are more complex, which would enable us to manipulate light in a most unusual way.

“For example, we hope to eventually control not just the amplitude of an optical signal but also its direction. We expect to be able to ‘turn’ it by a specified angle on an ultrafast timescale.”

Main image of light juggling via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic