Optics

The invention of fiber optics revolutionized the way we share information, allowing us to transmit data at volumes and speeds we'd only previously dreamed of, and now are breaking another barrier, designing nano-optical cables small enough to replace the copper wiring on computer chips.

This could result in radical increases in computing speeds and reduced energy use by electronic devices.

"We're already transmitting data from continent to continent using fiber optics, but the killer application is using this inside chips for interconnects—that is the Holy Grail," says Zubin Jacob, an electrical engineering professor leading the research. "What we've done is come up with a fundamentally new way of confining light to the nano scale." 


It’s hard to focus after a bad night’s sleep and by using mice and flashes of light, scientists have found why; just a few nerve cells in the brain may control the switch between internal thoughts and external distractions.

The study  may be a breakthrough in understanding how a critical part of the brain, called the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN), influences consciousness. 


Physicists investigating tubular biological microstructures that showed unexpected luminescence after heating. Bioinspired peptides, like the ones investigated, could be useful for applications in optical fibers, biolasers and future quantum computers.

The luminous peptide microstructures self-assemble in a water environment. After heating them with a laser, they showed luminescence in the green range of the optical spectrum.

Topological transport of light is the photonic analog of topological electron flow in certain semiconductors.

In the electron case, the current flows around the edge of the material but not through the bulk. It is "topological" in that even if electrons encounter impurities in the material the electrons will continue to flow without losing energy.


We all understand light has a wide electromagnetic spectrum and we only see a small band of that. In physics terms, that is between 400 - 700 nanometers and they show up as colors,from violet to red.

We can't see in the ultraviolet radiation spectrum because it is a shorter wavelength than what we can detect - violet - which is why it's in the name, and we can't see infrared because its wavelength is longer than red, which is why the name is infrared. 


Lasers are ubiquitous but there are still wavelengths for which only large and expensive ones exist, or none at all. Remote sensing and medical applications call for compact laser systems, for example with wavelengths from the near infrared to the Terahertz region and now researchers at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen and the University of Texas Austin have developed a 400 nanometer thick nonlinear mirror that reflects frequency-doubled output using input light intensity as small as that of a laser pointer.


The high power needed to cut or weld using a laser beam creates its own problem: the beam’s energy deforms the mirrors that focus it. When that happens, the beam expands and loses intensity.

A new type of mirror is being presented at the Optatec trade fair in Frankfurt next week - it can deform itself to correct deformation the laser beams it controls.

Lasers are used in manufacturing to cut materials or weld components together. Laser light is focused to a point using various lenses and mirrors obviously, the smaller the focal point and the higher the energy, the more accurately operators can work with the laser.

If you have ever seen set pieces from a science-fiction show, you have probably been amazed at how cheap and silly the whole things looks. That was the initial concern with high-definition television too. Standard definition hid a lot of cosmetic defects in people and things that are quite obvious in the real world.

Lighting can do the same thing in the real world, of course. Everyone has had a table in their place that looked fine, only to open the windows and have natural light reveal a layer of dust. 


An array of tiny, metallic, U-shaped structures deposited onto a dielectric material creates a new artificial surface that can bend and focus electromagnetic waves the same way an antenna does.


The complexity of biology can befuddle even the most sophisticated light microscopes because biological samples bend light in unpredictable ways, returning difficult-to-interpret information to the microscope and distorting the resulting image.

New imaging technology developed at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus rapidly corrects for these distortions and sharpens high-resolution images over large volumes of tissue.