UL­TRA-FAST COMMUNICATIONS

HWM (Malaysia) - - IMPACT - Ko­hWanzi

Re­searchers at Pur­due Univer­sity have de­vel­oped a new op­ti­cal ma­te­rial that could en­able de­vices to trans­mit data up to 10 times faster than con­ven­tional tech­nolo­gies and im­proves upon fiber op­tics’ abil­ity to mod­u­late how much light is re­flected up to 40 per­cent.

The new ma­te­rial is called plas­monic ox­ide, an alu­minum­doped zinc ox­ide (AZO). It has dras­ti­cally lower power con­sump­tion com­pared to con­ven­tional op­ti­cal semi­con­duc­tors and re­searchers also see the pos­si­bil­ity of de­vel­op­ing an op­ti­cal tran­sis­tor from the same ma­te­rial, us­ing light in­stead of elec­tric­ity to per­form the same sig­nal am­pli­fi­ca­tion func­tions as sil­i­con-based tran­sis­tors.

When con­ven­tional semi­con­duc­tors are ex­posed to a puls­ing laser light, elec­trons are ex­cited from a lower en­ergy level (va­lence band) to a higher one (con­duc­tion band), thus leav­ing be­hind holes in the va­lence band. They even­tu­ally re­com­bine with th­ese holes, and the time it takes for the semi­con­duc­tor to com­plete the en­tire cy­cle is known as switch­ing time.

Com­pared to sil­i­con semi­con­duc­tors, the new AZO ma­te­rial takes just 350 fem­tosec­onds to com­plete a cy­cle, which is around 5,000 times faster than con­ven­tional crys­talline sil­i­con. AZO has been shown to work in the near­in­frared spec­trum as well. Op­ti­cal communications uti­lize that range of the light spec­trum, and AZO’s com­pat­i­bil­ity with com­ple­men­tary me­tal-ox­ide semi­con­duc­tor (CMOS) manufacturing pro­cesses in in­te­grated cir­cuits could al­low the pro­duc­tion of de­vices that sup­port ul­tra-high speed op­ti­cal communications.

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