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January 18th, 2006
An electrical engineer at The University of Texas at Austin has made a laser light blink while passing through a miniaturized silicon chip, a major step toward developing commercially viable optical interconnects for high performance computers and other devices.
Ray Chen, a professor of electrical engineering, and graduate students Wei Jiang, YongQiang Jiang and Lanlan Gu created a chip made of silicon “photonic crystals” whose complex internal structure slowed light traveling through the chip. The laser light slowed down enough that a small electric current could alter, or modulate, the pattern of light transmission.
The shortened length was possible because Chen’s laboratory designed the silicon photonic crystals that are the key component of the modulator to have large regions of regularly spaced, nanosize holes that light would have to traverse. Navigating the Swiss cheese-like regions of the crystals, called line defects, slowed the light’s passage considerably.
University of Texas at Austin
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