Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Organic Material to Speed Internet Access

The next time an overnight snow begins to fall, take two bricks and place them side by side a few inches apart in your yard.

In the morning, the bricks will be covered with snow and barely discernible. The snowflakes will have filled every vacant space between and around the bricks.

What you will see, says Ivan Biaggio, an associate professor of physics at Lehigh University resembles a phenomenon that, when it occurs at the smallest of scales on an integrated optical circuit, could hasten the day when the Internet works at superfast speeds.

Biaggio, is part of an international team of researchers that has developed an organic material with an unprecedented combination of high optical quality and strong ability to mediate light-light interaction and has engineered the integration of this material with silicon technology so it can be used in optical telecommunication devices.

The material, which is composed of small organic molecules with high nonlinear optical susceptibilities, mimics the behavior of the snowflakes covering the bricks when it is deposited into the slot, or gap, that separate silicon waveguides that control the propagation of light beams on an integrated optical circuit. A description of this material was published on the Nature Photonics Web site March 15.

Just as the snowflakes, being tiny and mobile, fill every empty space between the two bricks, Biaggio says, the molecules completely and homogeneously fill the slot between the waveguides. The slots measure only tens of nanometers wide; 1 nm is one one-billionth of a meter, or about the width of a dozen carbon atoms.

The nanophotonic device obtained in this way, has demonstrated the best all-optical demultiplexing rate yet recorded for a silicon-organic-hybrid device.

This research has got me thinking for a long time. I have never questioned what has to be researched. What I mean is I am not for meaningful research, which as some presume, is directed to areas that will be beneficial to humanity. Science, time and again, has proved that you start with, say how frogs jump, and end up with computer tomograhy. All kinds of research is meaningful and bears an inherent good for the mankind. Yet, sometimes I really wish someone can give me an uninterrupted internet connection, cheap and not necessarily ultra fast.

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