Annual Report FY 2004 - Research at Cornell

16. Photonic Chips

Michal Lipson, Electrical and Computer Engineering, provided a key component for future photonic chips, in which light replaces electrons. Lipson and members of the Cornell nanophotonics research group demonstrated a device on a silicon chip that permits one low-powered beam of light to switch another on and off. Although the idea of silicon photonics has been around since the 1970s and previous devices on silicon have been developed, they were too large and required the beam of light that does the switching to be very high-powered. The researchers developed an all-optical switch on a silicon chip that confines the beam to be switched in a circular resonator, which reduces the space required and allows a very small change in refractive index to shift the material from transparent to opaque. Photonic circuits will be applied first in routing devices for fiber-optic communications.

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