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Nonlinear Molecules Trip the Light

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Science  23 May 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5316, pp. 1195
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5316.1195b

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Technology visionaries foresee speeding up fiber-optic communications by replacing today's electronic switches and other components with all-optical devices. So far, however, few optical materials allow one light beam to manipulate another--a feat that requires "third-order" nonlinear optical properties. On page 1233, researchers report developing organic molecules that have third-order properties 35 times larger than ever observed before. They are proof of principle of a scheme that could lead to practical optical switches.