Researchers unveil optics-on-a-chip device

(Associated Press via NewsEdge) Fiber optic networks transmit massive amounts of information quickly, but the signals weaken as the data-carrying light travels long distances.

Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said they've overcome a major obstacle in harnessing the full power and speed of the light waves.

It promises to solve a problem that's long plagued fiber-optic networks: Light waves gradually weaken over distances as they become polarized, or randomly oriented horizontally and vertically.
The tools available to fix it are expensive to deploy on a massive scale.

The MIT researchers reported in a recent edition of the journal Nature Photonics that they've devised a solution that utilizes the mass-production capabilities of standard silicon chips.

It's a promising development as bandwidth-hungry video puts a strain on networks and consumers demand seamless transmissions.

The MIT researchers created a clever device that splits the light beams as they pass through a circuit. The device then rotates one of the polarized beams, before both beams are rejoined on their way out of the circuit, retaining the signals' strength.

But it's not just that device that the researchers are touting.

They're also trumpeting the innovative method they devised to integrate the optical circuitry with electronic circuitry on the same silicon chip.

The MIT research team demonstrated a working circuit on a chip that they said could be easily reproduced using silicon fabrication technology that is already highly developed.

Independent technology experts said the invention could eventually make its way onto next-generation telecommunications chips, and devices like it could help redefine how optical networks are built.

© 2007 The Associated Press

© 2007 Dialog, a Thomson business. All rights reserved

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