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Team Led By UCLA and Columbia Engineers Uses Disorder to Control Light on a Nanoscale

By UCLA Newsroom (CA)

February 5, 2015

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Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Columbia University, and other institutions have made a discovery that could lead to the more precise transfer of information in computer chips, as well as new types of optical materials for light emission and lasers.

The breakthrough involves the ability to control light at tiny lengths around 500 nanometers by using random crystal lattice structures to counteract light diffraction. The researchers used a photonic crystal superlattice, a structure composed of crystals that allows light through, to control light on the nanoscale.

The new study was the first to examine transverse Anderson localization, the physical phenomenon that explains the conductance of electrons and waves in condensed matter physics, in a chip-scale photonic crystal media.

"This study allows us to validate the theory of Anderson localization in chip-scale photonics, through engineered randomness in an otherwise periodic structure," says UCLA professor Chee Wei Wong.

The initial results are counterintuitive because disorder in the structures should lead to the light being more spread out. "This effect, based on intuition gained from electronic systems, where introduced impurities can turn an insulator into a semiconductor, shows unequivocally that controlling disorder can arrest transverse transport, and really reduce the spreading of light," says Columbia University researcher Pin-Chun Hsieh.

From UCLA Newsroom (CA)
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