A team of researchers at the University of St Andrews has developed an optical switch that measures just one tenth of the width of a human hair.
The technology may eventually be used in small consumer devices that connect every home or office to an optical fibre and supply high data rates, including television on demand
The researchers, based at the University of St Andrew’s School of Physics and Astronomy have used photonic crystal technology to reduce the size of the switch to only a few wavelengths of light. Consequently, the entire switch is only about one tenth of the size of a human hair.
Professor Krauss explained: ‘The idea of using fibre in the home or office requires small optical circuits that operate with low power. When these can be mass-produced in a cost-effective way it helps to keep the cost of the products down.’
By focusing on silicon as the material platform, the photonic devices developed by the group can be mass-produced in a similar way as computer chips for the microelectronics industry, and integrated with electronic circuitry on the same chip.
The group aims to address the increasing need for optical components at all levels of the communications network that carries the ever-increasing flow of data over the internet.