Researchers Make Light and Material 'Intelligent' Interaction

Tuesday, February 4, 2020 - 10:21

A group of researchers from McMaster and Harvard could generate a new platform in which light beams communicate with one another through solid matter.

According to the researchers’ work which their results were described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research will establish the foundation to explore a new form of computing, phys.org reports.

Kalaichelvi Saravanamuttu, an associate professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at McMaster, explains that the technology brings together a form of hyrdrogel developed by the Harvard team with light manipulation and measurement techniques performed in her lab, which specializes in the chemistry of materials that respond to light.

The translucent material, which resembles raspberry Jell-O in appearance, incorporates light-responsive molecules whose structure changes in the presence of light, giving the gel special properties both to contain light beams and to transmit information between them.

When multiple laser beams, each about half the diameter of a human hair, are shone through the same material, the researchers have established that they affect one another's intensity, even without their optical fields overlapping at all—a fact that proves the gel is "intelligent."

Amos Meeks, a graduate student at Harvard's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said the technology helps to advance the idea of all-optical computing, or computations done solely with beams of light.

"Most computation right now uses hard materials such as metal wires, semiconductors and photodiodes, to couple electronics to light," said Meeks, who is also co-first author of the research. "The idea behind all optical computing is to remove those rigid components and control light with light. Imagine, for example, an entirely soft, circuitry-free robot driven by light from the sun."

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