An ultra-fast and ultra-small optical switch has been invented that could advance the day when photons replace electrons in the innards of consumer products ranging from cell phones to automobiles.
The new optical device can turn on and off trillions of times per second. It consists of individual switches that are only one five-hundredths the width of a human hair (200 nanometers) in diameter. This size is much smaller than the current generation of optical switches and it easily breaks one of the major technical barriers to the spread of electronic devices that detect and control light: miniaturizing the size of ultrafast optical switches.
The new device was developed by a team of scientists from Vanderbilt University, University of Alabama-Birmingham, and Los Alamos National Laboratory and is described in the Mar. 12 issue of the journal Nano Letters.