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Using light to control light: Engineers invent new device that could increase Internet download speeds



October 02, 2012 – Comments (7)

Talk about a bright idea! (yuk, yuk). Seriously, optomechanical relays without the need for electrical amplification is as about as low-power as a switch can get. This is a really cool development


Using light to control light: Engineers invent new device that could increase Internet download speeds
October 2, 2012
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(—A team of scientists and engineers at the University of Minnesota has invented a unique microscale optical device that could greatly increase the speed of downloading information online and reduce the cost of Internet transmission.

The device uses the force generated by light to flop a mechanical switch of light on and off at a very high speed. This development could lead to advances in computation and signal processing using light instead of electrical current with higher performance and lower power consumption.

The research results were published today in the online journal Nature Communications.

"This device is similar to electromechanical relays but operates completely with light," said Mo Li, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering.

The new study is based on a previous discovery by Li and collaborators in 2008 where they found that nanoscale light conduits can be used to generate a strong enough optical force with light to mechanically move the optical waveguide (channel of information that carries light). In the new device, the researchers found that this force of light is so strong that the mechanical property of the device can be dominated completely by the optical effect rather than its own mechanical structure. The effect is amplified to control additional colored light signals at a much higher power level.

"This is the first time that this novel optomechanical effect is used to amplify optical signals without converting them into electrical ones," Li said.

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7 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On October 02, 2012 at 2:40 PM, chk999 (99.96) wrote:

There is a lot of cool tech and materials science being discovered now. The next big bull market will happen when these discoveries are turned into new products that create new industries. Now if we can just figure out which companies will benefit dispropotionately...

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#2) On October 02, 2012 at 2:46 PM, binve (< 20) wrote:

100% agreed. No matter what happens financially (i.e. in nominal terms) over the next 5 or so years (another cyclical bear market, panic, what have you) we are seeing so many advances in materials science that will really spur another productivity boom. Such a boom occurred during the bears of the late 60s-mid 70s. Which means that the stage is being set for real growth over the next 20-30 years. That is why I continue to look for these stories and why I think you have to be absolutely insane to be bearish over the long term.

Yes, finding those companies will be the real trick. But man, will they ever benefit :)

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#3) On October 02, 2012 at 4:10 PM, amassafortune (29.20) wrote:

If we can survive innate human nature and frailties, the future is very bullish. 

With coming advancements in molecular and bio-genetics, robotics and micro-robotics, and artificial intelligence, progress can be made at astonishing rates.

A person in their 30s today has a good chance of reaching age 100, even if their family history would not predict that now. 

Once the world gets past another 15-20 years of wage inflation in low-wage countries, jobs will stabilize worldwide.

Our political structure should be planning for lives that need 20 yrs of education, 60 yrs of work, and 20 yrs of retirement.

Sixty years of work may not sound desirable, but imagine a workweek shrinking from 5X8 to 4X9, or even lower. Imagine also that we finally tap into the promise of technology and robotics and take much of the drudgery out of our work and personal lives. 

Imagine we put status in perspective

It's a shame our political structure allows a few to leverage our possible future, and our own vision remains too tied to current litmus test decision trees. Have we even had a president with vision since JFK?

On the international stage, how many years will it take us to get past 2,000-yr-old moot issues? When do beatings related to personal fashion stop? When does high-frequency trading wane and high-frequency idea generation take off?   

Presidential debates begin tomorrow. Will either candidate be thinking far enough out to make a difference in our lives or the lives of our children? Probably not, which is why these scientific developments, mostly from the private sector, are important.

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#4) On October 02, 2012 at 4:47 PM, binve (< 20) wrote:

Hey amass!

Man, those are very good observations!. And thanks for the link to that TED talk, I really enjoyed that one.

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#5) On October 02, 2012 at 5:54 PM, tdonb (42.75) wrote:

I am always fascinated with your finds. Where do you get them?

I like TINY because I am too lazy to learn which are the good campanies to invest in.

Thanks for the articles and ideas. 


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#6) On October 02, 2012 at 6:12 PM, binve (< 20) wrote:


Mostly NewScientist, ScienceDaily and PhysOrg (and a couple of others), but those are the main ones that I read/skim for cool articles. Thanks!

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#7) On October 06, 2012 at 12:07 AM, portefeuille (98.93) wrote:


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