Plasmonics could speed optical computing development

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A £6million research programme being undertaken jointly by Queen's University Belfast and Imperial College London, is to examine the fundamental science involved in nanoplasmonic devices.

The key components of nanoplasmonic devices are said to be nanoscale metal structures that guide and direct light in an unusual and highly controlled way. According to the researchers, this means nanoplasmoics could one day be used to build optical computers. However, instead of using optical fibres or lightguides, the researchers hope to develop a way of sending light over metallic wires. In order to achieve this, they are developing new metallic devices, including nanoscale light sources, 'waveguides' and nanoscale detectors. The project is being led by Professor Anatoly Zayats, from Queen's University's Centre for Nanostructured Media. He said: "This is basic research into how light interacts with matter on the nanoscale. But we will work together with and listen to our industrial partners to direct research in the direction that hopefully will lead to new improved products and services that everyone can buy from the shelf." Professor Stefan Maier, pictured, who leads the research team at Imperial, added: "This is an exciting step towards developing computers that use light waves, not electrical current, to handle data and process information. In the future, these optical computers will provide us with more processing power and higher speed. This will also open the door to a world of possibilities in scientific fields at the interface with the biosciences, and perhaps even in the world of personal computing." The project is also supported by Intel, Seagate, Ericsson, Oxonica, IMEC and the National Physics Laboratory.