TORONTO, July 5 -- Photonic crystals could greatly improve both speed and bandwidth in communications systems, say researchers at the University of Toronto.
Researchers there, including chemistry professor Geoffrey Ozin, have discovered a technique to form tiny, perfect crystals that have high optical quality, a finding that could usher in a new era of ultra-fast computing and communication using photons instead of electrons.
"All of the promises of what photonic crystals can do, in terms of guiding light and bending light in incredibly small spaces, may be achieved by the assembly of patterns of micrometer-size photonic crystals all in a plane," Ozin said. "The breakthrough possibly represents a step toward the development of miniaturized optical components earmarked for the next generation of all-optical computers and telecommunication systems."
The technique, described in the June issue of Advanced Functional Materials carves geometrically and spatially well-defined microscopic patterns into the surface of a material. The surface relief patterns are then exposed to an alcohol-based solution of synthetic microspheres. These microspheres exclusively enter the surface relief patterns and self-assemble into perfectly arranged microstructures called photonic crystals. The crystals have the property of being able to act as tiny optical components for managing photons in circuits of light similar to how semi-conductor transistors control electrons in circuits of electricity.
Ozin said the findings are a step toward significantly reducing the size of optical components, devices and circuits.