Note: lamina tenuissima = thinnest (Latin)
Topics: Applied Physics, Nanotechnology, Optical Physics, Photonics
Researchers have succeeded in making the thinnest ever optical device in the form of a waveguide just three atomic layers thick. The device could lead to the development of higher density optoelectronic chips.
Optical waveguides are crucial components in data communication technologies but scaling them down to the nanoscale has proved to be no easy task, despite important advances in nano-optics and nanomaterials. Indeed, the thinnest waveguide used in commercial applications today is hundreds of nanometres thick and researchers are studying nanowire waveguides down to 50 nm in the laboratory.
“We have now pushed this limit down to just three atoms thick,” says Ertugrul Cubukcu of the University of California at San Diego, who led this new research effort. “Such a thin waveguide, which is at the ultimate limit for how thin an optical waveguide can be built, might potentially lead to a higher density of waveguides or optical elements on an optoelectronic chip – in the same way that ever smaller transistors have led to a higher density of these devices on an electronic chip.”
Cubukcu and colleagues’ waveguide is just six angstroms thick. This makes it 104 times thinner than a typical optical fiber and about 500 times thinner than on-chip optical waveguides in integrated photonic circuits.
Three-atom-thick optical waveguide is the thinnest ever, Belle Dumé, Physics World