French researchers create the world’s first optical diode

This is yet another milestone in the march towards optical computers.

Researchers at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, led by Professor Julien Laurat have created the world’s smallest mirror. This remarkable feat has been achieved by using just 2,000 atoms of cesium.

According to Neil Corzo, a postdoctoral fellow who is the lead author on the team’s research paper which was published in the Physical Review Letters Journal, the nano-mirror has the same level of reflectance as materials that require tens of millions of atoms and has the potential for a breakthrough in optical computing.

The nano-mirror uses a nanoscale optical fiber measuring 400 nano-meters in diameter so as to place a chain of cesium atoms in exactly the right alignment so that it can reflect light.

Just so that you get the scale of this mirror, the thickness of human hair typically varies between 80,000-100,000 nm.

Given the scale of this project, the cesium atom chains had to be precisely spaced at half the wavelength of the light beam, which means, the researchers had to specifically choose the colour of the light beam.

This is a very significant development, since the researchers were able to temporarily trap the light bean, thus creating an optical diode which can store and retrieve pulses of light.

As noted by Corzo in his research paper, this development could ultimately lead to photonic circuits which could bring about the age of optical computing.

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