by Staff Writers
Munich, Germany (SPX) May 23, 2017
Tomorrow's computers will run on light, and gold nanoparticle chains show much promise as light conductors. Now Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich scientists have demonstrated how tiny spots of silver could markedly reduce energy consumption in light-based computation.
Today's computers are faster and smaller than ever before. The latest generation of transistors will have structural features with dimensions of only 10 nanometers. If computers are to become even faster and at the same time more energy efficient at these minuscule scales, they will probably need to process information using light particles instead of electrons. This is referred to as "optical computing".
Fiber-optic networks already use light to transport data over long distances at high speed and with minimum loss. The diameters of the thinnest cables, however, are in the micrometer range, as the light waves - with a wavelength of around one micrometer - must be able to oscillate unhindered. In order to process data on a micro- or even nanochip, an entirely new system is therefore required.
One possibility would be to conduct light signals via so-called plasmon oscillations. This involves a light particle (photon) exciting the electron cloud of a gold nanoparticle so that it starts oscillating. These waves then travel along a chain of nanoparticles at approximately 10% of the speed of light.
This approach achieves two goals: nanometer-scale dimensions and enormous speed. What remains, however, is the energy consumption. In a chain composed purely of gold, this would be almost as high as in conventional transistors, due to the considerable heat development in the gold particles.
A tiny spot of silver
The silver serves as a kind of intermediary between the gold particles while not dissipating energy. To make the silver particle's plasmon oscillate, more excitation energy is required than for gold. Therefore, the energy just flows "around" the silver particle.
"Transport is mediated via the coupling of the electromagnetic fields around the so-called hot spots which are created between each of the two gold particles and the silver particle," explains Tim Liedl. "This allows the energy to be transported with almost no loss, and on a femtosecond time scale."
Textbook quantum model
In parallel, the physicists simulated the experimental set-up on the computer - and had their results confirmed. In addition to classical electrodynamic simulations, Alexander Govorov, Professor of Physics at Ohio University, Athens, USA, was able to establish a simple quantum-mechanical model: "In this model, the classical and the quantum-mechanical pictures match very well, which makes it a potential example for the textbooks."
Stanford CA (SPX) May 24, 2017
A tiny amount of squeezing or stretching can produce a big boost in catalytic performance, according to a new study led by scientists at Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The discovery, published May 18 in Nature Communications, focuses on an industrial catalyst known as cerium oxide, or ceria, a spongy material commonly used in catalytic converters, self-cleani ... read more
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