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Friday, August 20, 2004Network could operate 100 times faster.Canadian researchers have shown that nanotechnology can be used to pave the way to a supercharged Internet based entirely on light. The discovery could lead to a network 100 times faster than today's. In a study published today in Nano Letters, Professor Ted Sargent and colleagues advance the use of one laser beam to direct another with unprecedented control, a featured needed inside future fibre-optic networks. "This finding showcases the power of nanotechnology: to design and create purpose-built custom materials from the molecule up," says Sargent, a professor at U of T's Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.Until now, engineering researchers have been unable to capitalize on theoreticians' predictions of the power of light to control light. The failure of real materials to live up to their theoretical potential has become known as the "Kuzyk quantum gap" in molecular nonlinear optics. "Molecular materials used to switch light signals with light have, until now, been considerably weaker than fundamental physics say they could be," says Sargent. "With this work, the ultimate capacity to process information-bearing signals using light is within our practical grasp." According to Sargent, future fibre-optic communication systems could relay signals around the global network with picosecond (one trillionth of a second) switching times, resulting in an Internet 100 times faster. To do this, they need to avoid unnecessary conversions of signals between optical and electronic form. Says Sargent: "By creating a new hybrid material that can harness a light beam's power, we've demonstrated a new class of materials which meets the engineering needs of future photonic networks."
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