An international team of researchers led by scientists at the Australian National University (ANU), have had the honor to exhibit for the first time the “ultra-fast transmission of information” via nano-antenna that had been integrated on to an optical waveguide. Suffice it to say, the technology, currently in its nascent stage, does have the potential to ramp up telecommunication applications, when it comes to high-speed data transferring between (selective) devices.
Now while there have been previous instances of nano-antenna being imprinted on an optical waveguide, the scope of these experiments were limited in nature. But in this case, the scale of variance is paramount, as explained by Dragomir Neshev, a professor at ANU (in an interview with IEEE) –
What we showed is that such an antenna of sub-micron size can sort and route different streams of information (encoded into the different polarizations of light) into different directions of the waveguide. This is a very important operation used in coherent receivers for any communication link.
Moreover, the researchers were also successful in significantly reducing the size of the optical component. This component is needed for the crucial polarization sorting to a tiny (sub-micrometer) antenna. Simply put, the shrinking method can potentially result in even more integration (i.e., high-density) of photonics components in conventional silicon chips.
Now while the very term ‘nano-antenna’ can be vague in certain instances, Dexter Johnson from IEEE explains what it entails in this regard –
The optical nanoantenna operates through plasmonics. In plasmonics, incoming light excites electrons on the surface of a metal so that they begin to move across the metal’s surface in plasmon waves. These plasmon waves have a much smaller length than even the smallest wavelength of light. As a result, it is possible to make devices on a much smaller scale than those that would depend on light by itself. Plasmonics has led to the very real possibility of creating so-called photonic integrated circuits (ICs) in which photons could replace electrons.
Reverting to the research, Neshev has concluded that their on-chip nano-antenna technology encompasses elements from plasmonics, silicon photonics (pertaining to the waveguides), and telecommunication networks (for high-speed data transfer). But as with new nano-tech oriented researches, Neshev also admitted that the core engineering needs to be improved even further for the commercial development of the micro-device in question here. The scientist said –
The entire structure needs to be made CMOS compatible. The currently used gold bars will have to be replaced with another metal, possibly aluminum, to be compatible with the standard CMOS fabrication.