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article imageScientists find new way to control light for next gen computing

By James Walker     Mar 22, 2015 in Technology
Scientists have created a device reminiscent of a bee's honeycomb that can twist beams of light around tighter curves than has ever been witnessed before. This could become a powerful way of transmitting data on circuit boards in next gen computers.
The work was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas El Paso and the University of Central Florida. They found that by creating a highly miniaturized honeycomb-like lattice they could steer light beams through much tighter corners than ever before.
Crucially, the beam remains completely intact and at the same intensity as it started at when it emerges from the curve. This challenge has been one of the most major issues so far in replacing electrical signals with light beams in computers.
Optical fibers used for broadband are based around light but in these the turns in the wire are very gradual so that the light beams do not escape and no energy is lost. Because of this, optical fibers can't just be down-scaled for use on a circuit board because the turns would become too tight and data would be lost.
The new lattice overcomes this issue. The researchers successfully ran light beams through the tiny "honeycombs" and found that no energy was lost when beams were passed through terms twice as tight as any previous effort had achieved.
The teams at the two universities worked together to create their final product. This was made using direct laser writing, a method of 3D printing that allows nanoscale structures to be produced.
The lattices could be instrumental in creating much smaller circuitry in the future. With consumer devices getting ever smaller and yet more powerful, engineers are always looking to find alternatives to today's metal wires.
Light beams can also transmit data thousands of times more quickly than electrical pulses. Every operation performed by a computer would be made much quicker if they could be used on a circuit board. The researchers' discovery has brought this a little closer to being possible.
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