New device enables telecommunications networks and high-performance computers to transfer data through tight twists and turns at light speed and without energy loss
Researchers at UCF and the University of Texas at El Paso have designed and developed a device that can bend and steer data-carrying light beams through tighter turns and with higher efficiency than current technologies. The micron-scale, spatially variant photonic crystal (SVPC) enables extraordinary control of light and electromagnetic waves over very abrupt size scales; thus, companies can steer light through turns with a bending radius as much as 10 times the optical wavelength. The invention offers a way to build efficient, integrated photonics systems that can control optical beams in three dimensions while providing high data throughput.
Devices based on conventional photonic crystals, metamaterials, plasmonics and transformation optics have been considered for controlling and steering light through tight turns. Yet, such devices require complex fabrication processes or exotic materials and metals that cause impractical energy loss. Fiber optic waveguides can also steer light using total internal reflection; however, the turns must be gradual–not sharp. The waveguides must have a turn radius that is several hundred times greater than the vacuum wavelength and a high refractive index to ensure minimum light leakage. In contrast, this invention can be fabricated using inexpensive materials with a low refractive index and can bend light with an optical wavelength (λ0) of 1.55 μm (microns) through a 90-degree turn with a bending radius (Rbend) of 10 μm.
The invention consists of a 3D lattice structure design, an algorithm for describing the fabrication of the lattice structure, and methods for fabricating the structure using multiphoton lithography. SVPCs can be fabricated from low-refractive-index media and commercially available photopolymer IP-DIP materials. With this technology, a manufacturer can create a spatially-variant lattice structure that can be graded or bent without deforming cells or losing electromagnetic properties. The invention enables the self-collimation effect, so that electromagnetic beams propagate along an axis of the lattice regardless of the beam’s angle of incidence.
A single SVPC lattice can be used for two or more multiplexed optical functions, including (but not limited to) a curved optical path, a lens, a filter, a beam steerer, a multiplexer, a beam splitter, a beam combiner and a polarizer. An SVPC can also act as a photon funnel to concentrate or disperse light for energy harvesting, sensing, illumination, microscopy or endoscopy.
- Provides extraordinary control of light and electromagnetic waves over very abrupt size scales
- Low cost, requiring inexpensive materials
- Enables independent control of power and phase within the same volume of space
- Allows for switchable and tunable devices
- Optical jumpers to connect semiconductor chips by light instead of electricity
- 3D optical interconnects
- Energy harvesting, sensing, illumination, microscopy or endoscopy
- Compact imaging systems and compound lenses