July 28, 2015

Superfast Fluorescence Sets New Speed Record

Plasmonic device has speed and efficiency to serve optical computers

(July 28, 2015)  Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.

At its most basic level, your smart phone’s battery is powering billions of transistors using electrons to flip on and off billions of times per second. But if microchips could use photons instead of electrons to process and transmit data, computers could operate even faster. 

But first engineers must build a light source that can be turned on and off that rapidly. While lasers can fit this requirement, they are too energy-hungry and unwieldy to integrate into computer chips.
Duke University researchers are now one step closer to such a light source. In a new study, a team from the Pratt School of Engineering pushed semiconductor quantum dots to emit light at more than 90 gigahertz. This so-called plasmonic device could one day be used in optical computing chips or for optical communication between traditional electronic microchips.

The study was published online on July 27 in Nature Communications.