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Cornell's resonating ring waveguide device could be used to act as an optical filter or switch.  (Source: Cornell Nanophotonics Group)
New optical hardware may be powered by... light?

Beams of light are handy for illumination, from the size of a flashlight down to the fine scale of modern lasers. The meat and potatoes of a beam of light is the energy of which it is composed – oscillating electric and magnetic fields. And this energy can have a profound effect on objects near it. At least on a very, very small scale.

Though all light particles have force, you needn’t worry about dodging moonbeams at night. Even all the photons streaming to Earth during the day could never hope to budge something as small a hair, let alone a human body. On a much smaller level, though, where the wavelength of the light can be matched or represented in small multiples by microscopic devices, these effects can be realized and measured.

Researchers at Cornell University have managed to harness the sucking power of a beam of light to create what could be used as an optical switch or filter from two resonating rings and a small straight wave guide tuned to a frequency of infrared light. The rings themselves resemble four-spoke wheels, mounted like semi-tractor tires on one end of a rear axle. The silicon nitride rings have a diameter of 30 microns and are mounted 190 nanometers apart. The waveguide part of the ring, or the rubber part of our tractor tires, measures a scant 3 microns.

When light passes through a waveguide that is narrower than the wavelength of the light, some or most of the beam’s energy will escape the waveguide and this energy exerts an attractive force on objects near it. With this property in mind, the researchers mounted the resonating waveguides in close proximity so that their escaping energy would attract each other. By using this method, the group was able to expand or contract the distance between the waveguides by as much as 12 nanometers – enough to change the optical properties of the device creating what could be used as an optical switch or filter for other beams of light passed through the space.

This effect may also be useful in the field of micro-electromechanical systems, where forces at the subatomic and quantum levels, such as the Casimir force, create sticky situations for tiny mechanical parts. By reversing the phase of one of the resonating rings, the forces which once pulled the rings together instead push them apart. Controlled, this could help fight “stiction” as it has been dubbed.



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Quantum mechanics
By scrapsma54 on 11/18/2009 8:41:24 AM , Rating: 2
The familiar scenarios behind this quantum level mechanics are almost like reinventing the computer since the hole punch based computers.
Not that this is a bad thing.




RE: Quantum mechanics
By invidious on 11/18/2009 10:46:11 AM , Rating: 2
Don't confuse this with quantum computing. A quantum computer would truly reinvent the computer but an optical computer is more of face lift. The basic artchitecture of the system would remain the same. The process of converting electrical signals to optical signals (and the opposite) is a mature technology, so individual components can be updated as it becomes cost effective.

Currently the only hardware to take advantage of this is speaker wiring as far as I know. But if I am not mistaken all of the components required to build a "fully" optical computer have at least been proven from a design point of view. But most the technology is still premature and even a state of the art optical computer would be very large and very expensive to build.


RE: Quantum mechanics
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 11/18/2009 11:13:18 AM , Rating: 2
Also the fiber optic cables that power the interweb.


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