PerspectivePhysics

Plasmonics Goes Quantum

Science  28 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6055, pp. 463-464
DOI: 10.1126/science.1211736

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Summary

Light in a silica fiber and electrons in silicon are the backbones of current communication and computation systems. A seamless interface between the two can guarantee the use of light to overcome issues related to the resistive time delay of electrons within integrated circuits. However, a fundamental incompatibility arises between photonics and nanometer-scale electronics because light breaks free when confined to sizes below its wavelength. Instead, coupling light to the free electrons of metals can lead to a quasiparticle called a plasmon, with nanometer-scale mode volumes. The resulting possibility of efficiently interfacing photonics and nanoelectronics has been the impetus for the field of plasmonics (1). Recent work has shown that these nanoscale plasmons, which can transmit classical information with unprecedented bandwidth, are also naturally conducive to quantum information processing (2).