Sunday, July 19, 2009

Light's repulsive force discovered

Tang's team shows how interacting lightwaves can be used to control devices on a silicon chip. Credit: Hong Tang / Yale University

A newly discovered repulsive aspect to light could one day control telecommunications devices with greater speed and less power, researchers said today.

The discovery was made by splitting infrared light into two beams that each travel on a different length of silicon nanowire, called a waveguide. The two light beams became out of phase with one another, creating a push, or repulsive force, with an intensity that can be controlled; the more out of phase the two light beams, the stronger the force.

"We can control how the light beams interact," said Mo Li, a postdoctoral associate in electrical engineering at Yale University. "This is not possible in free space — it is only possible when light is confined in the nanoscale waveguides that are placed so close to each other on the chip."

The discovery could lead to nanodevices controlled by light rather than electricity.

Li and colleagues previously discovered an "attractive" force of light and showed how it could be manipulated to move components in semiconducting micro- and nano-electrical systems — tiny mechanical switches on a chip.

"This completes the picture," Tang said. "We've shown that this is indeed a bipolar light force with both an attractive and repulsive component."

The team, led by Yale assistant professor Hong Tang, details its findings today in the online version of the journal Nature Photonics.

Light's Repulsive Force Discovered

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