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MIT Researchers Invent Diode For Light in Optical Circuits

By - Source: MIT | B 15 comments

Researchers at MIT have developed a new device that eliminates the need for the conversion of optical to electronic (and, conversely, electronic to optical) signals.

The invention promises a reduction in light reflections and more stability for optical circuits and their lasers. In the end, the entire optical circuit is expected to be much more efficient. According to the scientists, the invention is analogous to an electronic diode, which "allows an electric current to flow in one direction but blocks it from going the other way; in this case, it creates a one-way street for light, rather than electricity."

In current optical circuits, optical signals are converted into an electronic signal at their destination, and converted back to an optical signal using a laser once they have been processed via electronic circuits. MIT's "light diode" could be integrated in one optical circuit and eliminate complex conversion steps as the optical signal can be processed immediately. As a result, the researchers hope that the device will improve data transmission speeds as light flows faster than electrons do. Additionally, optical fiber supports multiple data beams, while wires can carry only a single data stream. "This may be the next generation in terms of speed" for communications systems, said Caroline Ross, co-author of a paper reporting the new device.

Ross and her team developed the diode by using garnet, a transparent and magnetic material. Garnet can transmit light differently in one direction than in another, depending on the direction of the light beam hitting its surface. According to MIT, the researchers were able to "deposit a thin film of garnet to cover one half of a loop connected to a light-transmitting channel on the chip," which enables light to pass through the chip freely in one direction. From the opposite direction, the beam was diverted into the loop.

There was no information on commercial products that may use this technology.

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  • 8 Hide
    husker , November 29, 2011 2:53 AM
    I wonder if this means the value of an unblemished garnet will go up in Skyrim.
  • 2 Hide
    dogman_1234 , November 29, 2011 3:58 AM
    If they can make a diode this way, think of a transistor that could use this tech. shrink it down to atom size, apply quantum mechanics, and viola! Near-pure quantum processing.
  • Display all 15 comments.
  • 3 Hide
    ben850 , November 29, 2011 4:09 AM
    My body is ready
  • 2 Hide
    danraies , November 29, 2011 5:15 AM
    I saw the link and thought it would be cool to see a picture of one of these "diode's." That was the only reason I clicked the link. I then saw the picture of the enormous microscope and realized the absurdity of that first thought.

    Also, any guesses on what's on that sticky note? I'm putting my money on "don't hit your head on this wheel."
  • 0 Hide
    iamtheking123 , November 29, 2011 5:26 AM
    In the end though they're still a LONG way off from doing anything close to optical computing. Hell there's still debate on whether it's even possible to use light to do anything practically useful for computing (other than move data around through fiber).
  • 1 Hide
    iamtheking123 , November 29, 2011 5:28 AM
    danraies I'm putting my money on "don't hit your head on this wheel."


    I believe it says "Did you mind the bump?"
  • 0 Hide
    Max Collodi , November 29, 2011 5:40 AM
    danraiesI saw the link and thought it would be cool to see a picture of one of these "diode's." That was the only reason I clicked the link. I then saw the picture of the enormous microscope and realized the absurdity of that first thought.Also, any guesses on what's on that sticky note? I'm putting my money on "don't hit your head on this wheel."

    It says, and I quote "Did you raise the heater ??"
  • 1 Hide
    snowpeak , November 29, 2011 8:23 AM
    This is for optical switches, not optical computing. If the technology can be made into an affordable real world device it would enable complete optical networking and allow some really high speed/high volume internet speeds. Right now all fiber optic cables lead to electronic switches (routers and such).
  • 0 Hide
    alyoshka , November 29, 2011 8:58 AM
    And I thought Intel had already done something of the sort....
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 29, 2011 4:58 PM
    @snowpeak

    a transistor is a switch of sorts, figure out how to make an optical switch is a step away from an optical transistor which is a step away from an optical CPU.....
  • -1 Hide
    lathe26 , November 29, 2011 5:01 PM
    ... so... MIT invented the one-way mirror?

    Think of all the applications for law enforcement! Of course, some TV show like CSI will show it before a practical version shows up in the real world.
  • 0 Hide
    lunaticwoda , November 30, 2011 12:51 AM
    Wonder if this tech could help with photonic processing!!
  • 1 Hide
    hetneo , November 30, 2011 5:52 PM
    snowpeakThis is for optical switches, not optical computing. If the technology can be made into an affordable real world device it would enable complete optical networking and allow some really high speed/high volume internet speeds. Right now all fiber optic cables lead to electronic switches (routers and such).

    As much as know garnet is rather cheap mineral, I think that rings with stone of 2 carat weight go for $100-$150 depending on the metal of ring. So depending on other expenses it could lead to cheaper and faster products and higher availability of fiber optics based communication devices.
  • 1 Hide
    WyomingKnott , November 30, 2011 5:56 PM
    I read the title and assumed that they had re-invented the LED.