Applied Physics

Low-Energy Light Switches

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Science  25 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5986, pp. 1613
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5986.1613-a

The backbone of high-speed communications consists of optic fibers that carry information as pulses of light. Light-sensitive bistable optical resonators coupled to the fibers are capable of controlling the transmitted light, allowing access to the higher information transfer rates offered by all-optical switching. However, the relatively high amount of energy (or light intensity) required to switch an optical resonator between its two states (transmission ON, transmission OFF) can be a limiting factor with regard to power requirements. Sandhu et al. use numerical simulations to show that coherent control, or pulse shaping, of the switching light pulses can reduce the input energy requirements for switching the optical resonator. Moreover, because the peak energy input to the resonator is dependent on the phase of the input pulse, switching by phase modulation should be possible, thus offering the potential for even higher bit rates than attainable with intensity modulation–based protocols.

Appl. Phys. Lett. 96, 231108 (2010).

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