|A new polymer based technology developed for the nano-photonics market by researchers from Tel Aviv can make computers and the Internet hundred times faster. This technology is a communications technology "enabler" that may be in use only five or ten years in the future, currently being created by Dr. Koby Scheuer of Tel Aviv University's School of Electrical Engineering. Dr. Scheuer has developed a new plastic-based technology for the nano-photonics market, which manufactures optical devices and components. Reported in the journal Optics Express, his plastic-based "filter" is made from nanometer-sized grooves embedded into the plastic. When used in fiber optics cable switches, this new device will make our communication devices smaller, more flexible and more powerful. In the near future, all communication will go through fiber optics cable coming into every home - telephone, cable TV, the Internet. But to avoid bottlenecks of information, the information coming through will need to be separated into different channels. The new polymeric devices can do that in the optical domain at an unimaginable speed, quality and cost.
This new technology uses plastic-based switch, replacing hard-to-fabricate and expensive semi-conductors. Semi-conductors, grown on crystals in sterile labs and processed in special ovens, take days and sometimes months to manufacture and are delicate and inflexible. The new plastic polymer switches come in an easy-to-work-with liquid solution. Using a method called 'stamping,' almost any laboratory can make optical devices out of the silicon rubber mold we've developed. The silicon rubber mold is scored with nano-sized grooves, invisible to the eye and each less than a millionth of a meter in width. A plastic solution can be poured over the mold to replicate the optical switch in minutes. When in place in a fiber-optic network, the grooves on the switch modulate light coming in through the cables, and the data is filtered and encoded into usable information.
The biggest hurdle lies in convincing the communications industry that polymers are stable materials. The device can also be used in the gyros of planes, ships and rockets; inserted into cell phones; and made a part of flexible virtual reality gloves so doctors could "operate" on computer networks over large distances.