The speed at which light travels is crucial for the rapid exchange of information.
There would be a whole host of new technological applications that could be used for, if scientists could somehow slow down the speed of light particles.
It can be used for quantum computing, LIDAR, virtual reality, WiFi light-based and even virus detection.
Now, in an article published in Nature Nanotechnology, scientists at Stanford have demonstrated an approach to dramatically slow down the light and direct it at will.
The group of scientists in Jennifer Dionne’s lab, professor of materials science and, engineering at Stanford, developed these “high-quality factors” or “high-Q” resonators.
They made it by structuring ultra-thin silicon chips into nanoscale bars, in order to trap the light in a resonant fashion, then release or redirect it later.
The purpose is to trap the light in a little box that always allows the light to come and go in many different directions said Mark Lawrence, postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the article.
It’s easy to trap light in a multi-sided box, but not so easy if the sides are transparent, – as is the case with many silicon-based applications.
To overcome this problem, the Stanford team developed an extremely thin layer of silicon, which is very good at trapping light and, has low absorption in the near-infrared, the spectrum of light that the researchers set out to control.
It is now a central component of their device.
The silicon sits on a transparent sapphire wafer, into which the researchers direct an electron microscope “pen” to etch their nanoantenna pattern.
It is essential that the pattern is drawn as easily as possible, as imperfections inhibit their ability to trap light.
“In the end, we had to find a design that had good light trapping performance, but was within the realm of existing manufacturing methods,” Lawrence said.
One application where the Stanford component could be used is the division of photons, for quantum computing systems. In doing so, it would create entangled photons that would remain connected at a quantum level, even if they were far away.
This type of experiment would generally require large, expensive, precision-polished crystals and, is much less accessible with current technologies.
“With our results, we’re excited to look at the new science that’s now, but also to try to push the boundaries of what’s possible,” Lawrence said.