Israeli scientists show they can ‘shrink’ optical technology by 1,000 times

Israeli scientists have passed light waves through a material 1,000 times thinner than glass fiber, an advance they believe could pave the way for new technologies.

“One thing that generally limits optical technology is the size of the light waves that must be transmitted,” Professor Ido Kaminer told the Times of Israel. “They’re too big to interact with microchips, which means our devices are slower than we’d like.”

If the fiber optic cables that carry the internet to our homes had a core that is much smaller than their current micrometer, they simply wouldn’t carry the information we need, he said.

“We have taken a step towards more compact optical technology – we have actually made a discovery that is helping to shrink optical technology,” he said.

“Instead of a fiber optic cable with a core of one micrometer, we showed that in the future we could use the materials my laboratory works with, which can be as thin as a nanometer”, or a thousandth of a micrometer.

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Kaminer and his PhD students Yaniv Kurman and Raphael Dahan documented their achievements in a newly published article in the peer-reviewed journal Science, applauds scholars unrelated to research.

The Technion researchers behind the new study on light waves, from left to right, Yaniv Kurman, Raphael Dahan, and Professor Ido Kaminer (Courtesy Technion-Israel Institute of Technology)

“I was thrilled with these results,” said Professor Harald Gießen from the University of Stuttgart, who was not involved in this research, in a comment he submitted to the Technion. “This represents a real breakthrough in ultrafast nano-optics and represents the state of the art and the top position at the scientific frontier.”

The scientific community is intrigued by the potential 2D materials, so called because they are so thin that they consist of only one atomic layer (they are also called single-layer materials). But while scientists designed experiments that confirm that light can pass through them, they couldn’t observe it directly, which meant they couldn’t use 2D materials for optical technology.

Now, Kaminer’s laboratory at the Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has successfully “captured” light in this unique material – some layers of it have been put together – and it is a. observed groundbreaking quantum microscope built on site.

The scientists radiated light pulses along the edge of a 2D material. They discovered a number of interesting behaviors, some of which they do not fully understand – the light-generated hybrid sound-light waves, the pulses can spontaneously accelerate and decelerate, and the waves split into two separate pulses that each other move with different movements speeds.

All of this is being explored, but the fact that his team can observe and record light in such tiny materials is an important first step in harnessing them to technology, Kaminer said.

“At some point these materials could be used for high-speed communications and transform our devices,” he said.

The laboratory setup used in the new research, including a quantum microscope, developed and used by Prof. Ido Kaminer (courtesy of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology)

“There’s a gap between the fast internet arriving in our homes and the devices we have that don’t use optical technology but electronics. You have to use electronics because today lighting technology is too big to sit on chips. The dream, however, is to shrink it so that optical technology can be used in devices, ”added Kaminer.

“Our performance now with 2D materials can help make this dream come true.”

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