Stanford Researchers Design Light Trapping Crystal; Entanglement and Quantum Computing Applications Envisioned
Stanford researchers design a light-trapping, color-converting crystal
+ Five years ago, Stanford postdoctoral scholar Momchil Minkov encountered a puzzle that he was impatient to solve. At the heart of his field of nonlinear optics are devices that change light from one color to another – a process important for many technologies within telecommunications, computing and laser-based equipment and science. But Minkov wanted a device that also traps both colors of light, a complex feat that could vastly improve the efficiency of this light-changing process – and he wanted it to be microscopic.
A recipe for creating a microscopic crystal structure that can hold two wavelengths of light at once is a step toward faster telecommunications and quantum computers.
+ [I]nstead of making one uniform structure to do it all, these researchers devised a structure that combines two different ways to confine light, one to hold onto the infrared light and another to hold the green, all still contained within one tiny crystal.
An illustration of the researchers’ design. The holes in this microscopic slab structure are arranged and resized in order to control and hold two wavelengths of light. The scale bar on this image is 2 micrometers, or two millionths of a meter. (Image credit: Momchil Minkov)
+ If telecommunications channels were a highway, flipping between different wavelengths of light would equal a quick lane change to avoid a slowdown – and one structure that holds multiple channels means a faster flip. Nonlinear optics is also important for quantum computers because calculations in these computers rely on the creation of entangled particles, which can be formed through the opposite process that occurs in the Fan lab crystal – creating twinned red particles of light from one green particle of light.
+ Envisioning possible applications of their work helps these researchers choose what they’ll study. But they are also motivated by their desire for a good challenge and the intricate strangeness of their science.“Basically, we work with a slab structure with holes and by arranging these holes, we can control and hold light,” Fan said. “We move and resize these little holes by billionths of a meter and that marks the difference between success and failure. It’s very strange and endlessly fascinating.” These researchers will soon be facing off with these intricacies in the lab, as they are beginning to build their photonic crystal cavity for experimental testing.
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