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 Silicon chip works on the speed of light

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Date posted: 03/11/2005

A silicon chip that can carry light and even slow it down has been unveiled by IBM researchers in the US.

The reluctance of photons to interact makes them good at carrying information but hard to store. ?A photon is one hell of a slippery thing,? says Will Stewart, a photonics engineer at University of Southampton in the UK.

Physicists have developed two techniques for processing photons. In 1999, Lene Vestergaard Hau at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, and colleagues, slowed light to the speed of a bicycle by passing it through a cloud of cold atoms.

?Slow light? techniques could be used to buffer optical data, in a way analogous to electronic memory. ?The trouble is that they needed a whole roomful of equipment to do it," says Yuri Vlasov, a physicist at IBM?s T J Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, US.

Other scientists have created tiny tunnels ? called waveguides - that can steer photons through otherwise opaque materials such as silicon. These "nanophotonic" devices can be fabricated in a similar way to electronic chips, which allows for mass production and relatively low cost.

Vlasov and his IBM colleagues have combined these two techniques. The result is a silicon chip carved with photon waveguides in which the photons can be slowed by a factor of 300.

See the full Story via external site: www.newscientist.com

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