A team of researchers led by Professor Tim Liedel at the Ludwig-Maximillians-Universitaet Muenchen (LMU) in collaboration with Ohio University have recently published a way in which silver nanoparticles are capable of significantly reducing the energy consumption in modern light-based computer systems.
Electricity, which is the power source for almost every type of electronic and computer system available today, is based on the flow of electrons through wires into different components of the system.
To further minimize the size of the systems, as well as enhance their speed, previous attempts at replacing electrons with photons, which are particles of light, to power such systems has already been accomplished in fiber-optic networks1.
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Fiber-optic networks are composed of wires whose diameter ranges in the micrometer scale, which allows for light waves of approximately one micrometer passing through. Photons do not exhibit a charge, as compared to the negative charge of electrons; however, they are capable of exerting certain electrical and magnetic forces on charged and/or magnetic particles.
While practical in its application, systems such as those that process data on micro-, or even nanochips, require the construction of a completely different system to allow for photons to be utilized.
Plasmon oscillation, a process in which rapid oscillations of the electron density is conducted in plasmas or metals, is a potential resolution to this interest in achieving light signal conduction within such systems.
To test this theory, the researchers initially applied photons directly to the electrons within the cloud that surrounds a gold nanoparticle, causing it to oscillate and allow for conduction to occur. These oscillations generated subsequent waves that were measured to travel at 10% of the speed of light, which is an incredibly fast pace1.
What is even more fascinating about this wave conduction is the fact that photon will travel in straight lies, however, when placed in an electrical or magnetic field, the photons will take up the energy of their environment and constantly be emitted and reabsorbed to continue the wave generation. Such conduction rates were further tested by their construction of a miniature test track in which a silver nanoparticle was placed between two gold nanoparticles.
To ensure the precise location of the nanoparticles, the team of researchers utilized an assembly technique known as the DNA origami method, which is a robust technique that allows for nanostructures to anneal together to maintain their defined distances from each other2.
By employing the same photoexcitation technique that was performed from their previous experiments, the researchers found that a strong plasmonic coupling occurred between the gold particles, which was completely mediated by the energy of the silver particle1.
By simultaneously avoiding the production of any energy waste, the researchers found that the excitation energy of the silver nanoparticle completely exceeded that of the gold nanoparticles. In what has been described as both a classical electrodynamic modeling and qualitative quantum-mechanical calculations, the researchers confirmed that energy was successfully transported between hot spots that were created by each of the particles at a femtosecond time scale.
Such a discovery has led the researchers to believe that their utilization of silver and gold nanoparticles could be applied for future supercomputers. Such supercomputers offer users an enhanced performance speed, while also reducing the size of the system. While the application of various types of nanoparticles, particularly those comprised of metals, semiconductors and magnetic materials, has been well-documented, the ability to manipulate the structures at the nanoscale, which was successfully achieved in this experimental work, could allow for future systems to be designed for specific electronic functions.
- “Hotspot-mediated non-dissipative and ultrafast plasmon passage” E. Roller, L. Besteiro, et al. Nature Physics. (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nphys4120.
- “Guiding the folding pathway of DNA origami” K. Dunn, F. Dannenberg, et al. Nature. (2015). DOI: 10.1038/nature14860.
- Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/KaterynaKon