Trapping light that doesn’t bounce off track for faster electronics

Purdue University

July, 2018
Trapping light that doesn’t bounce off track for faster electronics
A strong waveguide cladding keeps light travel on track throughout a computer chip, preventing leaked and jumbled bits of information. (Purdue University image/Saman Jahani)

At Purdue University, researchers are working towards the goal of replacing traditional computer chip components with light-based counterparts which will serve to make devices faster, thanks to the wide bandwidth of light.

However, the curvy pathways that light must travel on a computer chip poses challenges of ensuring that light does not leak out as it travels through the curves.

“We want the bits of information that we are sending in the waveguide to travel along tight bends and simultaneously not be lost as heat. This is a challenge,” said Zubin Jacob, Purdue assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

A new protective metamaterial—cladding—that the engineers have developed solves this problem with the unique use of anisotropy. The cladding design enables light to travel at different velocities in different directions. By controlling the anisotropy of the cladding, the researchers prevent light from leaking and instead the bits of information carried by the light stay strongly confined within a waveguide.

“The waveguide we made is an extreme skin-depth structure, which means that any leakage that does happen will be really small,” said Saman Jahani, Purdue graduate research assistant in electrical and computer engineering. “This approach can pave the way for dense photonic integration on a computer chip without worrying about light leakage.”

To learn more about this project, click here.

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