TORONTO, June 25 -- A new class of microscopic crystal structures developed at the University of Toronto is bringing high-bandwidth optical microchips one step closer to efficient, large-scale fabrication. The structures, known as photonic bandgap materials, could usher in an era of speedy computer and telecommunications networks that use light instead of electrons, according to researchers.
"This will be a tremendous breakthrough," said Sajeev John, a physics professor and co-investigator of the study, which was published in the June 7-13 issue of Physical Review Letters. "It's basically a whole new set of architectures for manufacturing nearly perfect photonic bandgap materials, and it will provide an enormous increase in the available bandwidth for the optical microchip."
John and his team devised a photonic bandgap blueprint that can be made with nanometer-scale precision by bombarding it with x-rays. The x-rays pass through a gold "mask" with an array of holes, removing portions of a polymer template below. Glass is deposited to fill in the holes, and the remaining polymer is burned away with heat. Silicon is then deposited throughout the void regions of the glass template, and finally the glass is removed with chemicals, leaving behind a pure silicon photonic bandgap material.
The study was co-written with physics graduate student Ovidiu Toader and Mona Berciu, a physics professor at the University of British Columbia, and funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
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