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Rainbow-trapping scientist opens up new possibilities for data storage


April 13, 2011 - Washington

A rainbow-trapping scientist is now working to capture all the colours of the rainbow, which could lead to new breakthroughs in boosting data storage and communications.

Qiaoqiang Gan, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University at Buffalo's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and his colleagues created nanoplasmonic structures by making nanoscale grooves in metallic surfaces at different depths, which alters the materials' optical properties.

These plasmonic chips provide the critical connection between nanoelectronics and photonics, Gan explains, allowing these different types of devices to be integrated, a prerequisite for realizing the potential of optical computing, "lab-on-a-chip" biosensors and more efficient, thin-film photovoltaic materials.

According to Gan, the optical properties of the nanoplasmonic structures allow different wavelengths of light to be trapped at different positions in the structure, potentially allowing for optical data storage and enhanced nonlinear optics.

The structures Gan developed slow light down so much that they are able to trap multiple wavelengths of light on a single chip, whereas conventional methods can only trap a single wavelength in a narrow band.

"Light is usually very fast, but the structures I created can slow broadband light significantly," says Gan. "It's as though I can hold the light in my hand."

That, Gan explains, is because of the structures' engineered surface "plasmon resonances," where light excites the waves of electrons that oscillate back and forth on metal surfaces.

In this case, he says, light can be slowed down and trapped in the vicinity of resonances in this novel, dispersive structural material.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

ANI

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