Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'The Photon Force Is With Us': Harnessing Light To Drive Nanomachines

Date:
November 28, 2008
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Science fiction writers have long envisioned sailing a spacecraft by the optical force of the sun's light. But, the forces of sunlight are too weak to fill even the oversized sails that have been tried. Now a team led by researchers at the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science has shown that the force of light indeed can be harnessed to drive machines when the process is scaled to nano-proportions.

Photonic circuit in which optical force is harnessed to drive nanomechanics.
Credit: Tang/Yale

Science fiction writers have long envisioned sailing a spacecraft by the optical force of the sun's light. But, the forces of sunlight are too weak to fill even the oversized sails that have been tried. Now a team led by researchers at the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science has shown that the force of light indeed can be harnessed to drive machines — when the process is scaled to nano-proportions.

Related Articles


Their work opens the door to a new class of semiconductor devices that are operated by the force of light. They envision a future where this process powers quantum information processing and sensing devices, as well as telecommunications that run at ultra-high speed and consume little power.

The research, appearing in the November 27 issue of Nature, demonstrates a marriage of two emerging fields of research — nanophotonics and nanomechanics. – which makes possible the extreme miniaturization of optics and mechanics on a silicon chip.

The energy of light has been harnessed and used in many ways. The "force" of light is different — it is a push or a pull action that causes something to move.

"While the force of light is far too weak for us to feel in everyday life, we have found that it can be harnessed and used at the nanoscale," said team leader Hong Tang, assistant professor at Yale. "Our work demonstrates the advantage of using nano-objects as "targets" for the force of light — using devices that are a billion-billion times smaller than a space sail, and that match the size of today's typical transistors."

Until now light has only been used to maneuver single tiny objects with a focused laser beam — a technique called "optical tweezers." Postdoctoral scientist and lead author, Mo Li noted, "Instead of moving particles with light, now we integrate everything on a chip and move a semiconductor device."

"When researchers talk about optical forces, they are generally referring to the radiation pressure light applies in the direction of the flow of light," said Tang. "The new force we have investigated actually kicks out to the side of that light flow."

While this new optical force was predicted by several theories, the proof required state-of-the-art nanophotonics to confine light with ultra-high intensity within nanoscale photonic wires. The researchers showed that when the concentrated light was guided through a nanoscale mechanical device, significant light force could be generated — enough, in fact, to operate nanoscale machinery on a silicon chip.

The light force was routed in much the same way electronic wires are laid out on today's large scale integrated circuits. Because light intensity is much higher when it is guided at the nanoscale, they were able to exploit the force. "We calculate that the illumination we harness is a million times stronger than direct sunlight," adds Wolfram Pernice, a Humboldt postdoctoral fellow with Tang.

"We create hundreds of devices on a single chip, and all of them work," says Tang, who attributes this success to a great optical I/O device design provided by their collaborators at the University of Washington.

It took more than 60 years to progress from the first transistors to the speed and power of today's computers. Creating devices that run solely on light rather than electronics will now begin a similar process of development, according to the authors.

"While this development has brought us a new device concept and a giant step forward in speed, the next developments will be in improving the mechanical aspects of the system. But," says Tang, "the photon force is with us."

Tang's team at Yale also included graduate student Chi Xiong. Collaborators at University of Washington were Thomas Baehr-Jones and Michael Hochberg. Funding in support of the project came from the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Alexander von Humboldt post-doctoral fellowship program.

Citation: Nature (November 27, 2008)


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Yale University. "'The Photon Force Is With Us': Harnessing Light To Drive Nanomachines." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081126133305.htm>.
Yale University. (2008, November 28). 'The Photon Force Is With Us': Harnessing Light To Drive Nanomachines. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081126133305.htm
Yale University. "'The Photon Force Is With Us': Harnessing Light To Drive Nanomachines." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081126133305.htm (accessed March 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, March 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Amazon Complains U.S. Is Too Slow To Regulate Drones

Amazon Complains U.S. Is Too Slow To Regulate Drones

Newsy (Mar. 25, 2015) Days after getting approval to test certain commercial drones, Amazon says the Federal Aviation Administration is dragging its feet on the matter. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) European researchers say our smartphone use offers scientists an ideal testing ground for human brain plasticity. Dr Ako Ghosh&apos;s team discovered that the brains and thumbs of smartphone users interact differently from those who use old-fashioned handsets. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
China Wants to Export Its Steel Problem

China Wants to Export Its Steel Problem

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) China is facing a crisis with a glut of steel and growing public anger over the pollution created by production. In a move to solve the problem, some steel mills are looking to relocate overseas. Jane Lanhee Lee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robot Stays on Its Feet Despite Punishment

Robot Stays on Its Feet Despite Punishment

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 24, 2015) Robotic engineers have modelled a two-legged robot to be fast and agile like an ostrich. The design is more efficient and stable than bipedal robots built to move like humans, according to its creators who abuse the poor machine to test its skills. Ben Gruber has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins