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The transition from electronic integrated circuits to faster, more energy-efficient and interference-free optical circuits is one of the most important goals in the development of photon technologies. Photonic integrated circuits (PICs) are already used today for transmitting and processing signals in optical networks and communication systems, including, for example, I/O multiplexers of optical signals and microchips with an integrated semiconductor laser, a modulator and a light amplifier. However, today PICs are mostly used in combination with electronic circuits, while purely photonic devices are not yet competitive.
One of the challenges in creating PICs is the complexity of manufacturing various devices (waveguide couplers, power dividers, amplifiers, modulators, lasers and detectors on a single microchip), since they require different materials. The main materials used in existing PICs are semiconductors (indium phosphate, gallium arsenide, silicon), electro-optical crystals (lithium niobate), as well as various types of glass.
Order - Speed - PICs - Flux - Researchers
In order to increase the speed of PICs in controlling light flux, researchers are searching for new materials with high optical nonlinearity. Among promising materials, one can name, in particular, microwaveguides based on the newly discovered material, graphene (a layer of carbon atoms one atom thick), in which charge carrier concentrations can be effectively controlled using optical pumping or applied bias voltage.
According to Mikhail Bakunov, head of the UNN General Physics Department, recent theoretical and experimental work shows the possibility of superfast (involving times of several light field periods) carrier concentration changes in graphene, which opens up possibilities for manipulating the amplitude and frequency of light waves (plasmons) directed by the graphene...
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