Researchers have come up with a new polymer-based technology that could make computers and the Internet a whole lot faster. Like a hundred times faster.
Features Editor Barry Copping atÂ Plastics and Rubbers Weekly reported that the team of Koby Scheuer of the Tel Aviv University’s School of Electrical Engineering have created a novel optical filter. Scheuer’s team are experts in optical lasers.
The filter is made by embedding nanometer-sized grooves in a plastic sheet. When placed in fiber-optic cable switches, the filters could make devices like gyros of planes, telephones, and cable TV and Internet interfaces smaller and more flexible. They will also be packed with more power.
The researchers say the new devices, described in the journal Optics Express, can perform at breakneck speeds, with unsurpassed quality, and at very low cost. They could be commonplace in 10 years time.
The polymer switches would take the place of semiconductor devices. Semiconductor devices are difficult to make and expensive. Semiconductors are grown on crystals in sterile laboratories and require special ovens for processing. The manufacturing procedures could take days to months to complete. The materials are also are delicate and stiff.
However, Copping writes:
By contrast, the material for the polymer switches comes in a user-friendly liquid solution. Using a method called ‘stamping,’ almost any laboratory can make optical devices using the silicon rubber mould developed at Tel Aviv, says Scheuer. The silicon rubber mould is scored with nano-sized grooves, invisible to the naked eye. A polymer solution is poured over the mould to replicate the groove configuration in minutes.
Copping quotes Scheuer as saying that the biggest hurdle in getting these polymer filters into widespread use is in “convincing the communications industry that polymers are stable materials.”
Source: “Plastic fibre optics could transform Internet speeds,” Plastics and Rubber Weekly, 05/16/11
Image by rq?, used under its Creative Commons license.
Rajendrani "Raj" Mukhopadhyay is a science writer and editor who contributes news stories and feature articles on scientific advances to a variety of magazines. Raj holds Ph.D. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University.