Conference Features Breakthroughs in Next-Generation Metamaterials

The world's largest international conference on optical communications begins next week and continues from March 22-26 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego. The Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (OFC/NFOEC) is the premier meeting where experts from industry and academia intersect and share their results, experiences, and insights on the future of electronic and wireless communication and the optical technologies that will enable it.

Journalists are invited to attend the meeting, where more than 15,000 attendees are expected. This year's lineup will have many engaging talks and panels, including:

  • MARKET WATCH, a three-day series of presentations and panel discussions featuring esteemed guest speakers from the industrial, research, and investment communities on the applications and business of optical communications. See: http://www.ofcnfoec.org/conference_program/Market_Watch.aspx.
  • PLENARY PRESENTATIONS: "The Changing Landscape in Optical Communications," Philippe Morin, president, Metro Ethernet Networks; "Getting the Network the World Needs," Lawrence Lessig, professor, Stanford Law School; "The Growth of Fiber Networks in India," Shri Kuldeep Goyal, chairman and managing director, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. To access speaker bios and talk abstracts, see: http://www.ofcnfoec.org/conference_program/Plenary.aspx.
  • SERVICE PROVIDER SUMMIT, a dynamic program with topics and speakers of interest to CTOs, network architects, network designers and technologists within the service provider and carrier sector. See: http://www.ofcnfoec.org/conference_program/Service_Provider_Summit.aspx

The OFC/NFOEC Web site is http://www.ofcnfoec.org. Also on the site is information on the trade show and exposition, where the latest in optical technology from more than 550 of the industry's key companies will be on display.

SCIENTIFIC HIGHLIGHTS

Red-light metamaterials

Metamaterials make it possible to manipulate light on the nanoscale. They are nanostructured materials made of tiny metallic rings, rods, or strips arranged in such a way as to produce a negative index of refraction, or a situation unique to metamaterials when light is deflected away from an imaginary line passing perpendicularly between air and the material. This property in turn is expected to lead to novel optical devices, such as flat-panel lenses and hyperlenses. These lenses can be used to image objects with a spatial resolution smaller than the wavelength of the illuminating light source, thus circumventing the normal "diffraction limit," which says that a lens cannot produce an image with a spatial resolution better than approximately half the wavelength of the light used to make the image.

Alexander Kildishev will report on optical metamaterial progress at Purdue, including the shortest wavelength light (710 nm) yet achieved for a negative index metamaterial, and the improved design of a cylindrical-shaped hyperlens. One goal in this work is to produce cloaking, rendering an object inside a metamaterial enclosure invisible to outside viewers. But Kildshev says achieving invisibility in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum will be difficult. Shorter range applications of metamaterials, he says, will likely be seen in microscopy, biosensing, and in the harvesting of solar energy. (More information is available at http://cobweb.ecn.purdue.edu/~shalaev/MURI/overview.shtml.)

Optofluidic assembly of microlasers

One of the problems of marrying electronics and photonics is that they are embodied in very different elements. Many photonic components – such as modulators, detectors, switches, and waveguides – can be fashioned from silicon, but the light source itself, the microlaser, is often assembled from elements residing in columns III and V of the periodic table, and these elements don't sit well on top of silicon. Ming-Chun Tien and Professor Ming Wu of the University of California, Berkeley will report on progress in their lab, where their team has been able to make III-V microlasers (6 microns in diameter and only 200 nm thick) using a wet chemical etch process. Once the microdisk lasers are formed, the lasers' substrate (the indium phosphide [InP] platform on which the indium gallium arsenide phosphide [InGaAsP] lasers were built) is etched away. Then the lasers are floated in a mini-lake of ethanol (which accounts for the word "fluidics" in the name) and moved into position by a patterned array of light from a computer-controlled projector, which they refer to as optoelectronic tweezers (OET). The lasers are held in place over optical waveguides defined in silicon by an applied voltage until the attachment process is complete. Tien says that the microlasers, costing less than 1 cent each, can be positioned on the chip with better-than-quarter-micron accuracy.

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