Australian scientists have invented a crystal device as thin as human hair that can convert invisible light to the visible spectrum and change its colour.
They believe has the potential to “turbocharge” internet speeds.
A research team from Australian National University (ANU), led by Professor Wieslaw Krolikowski from the uni’s Laser Physics Centre, found a way to convert light using a new type of nonlinear photonic crystal.
“Our device can produce different types of light and in different colours, simply by changing the angle that we shine a laser beam into the device, and it is reusable for different purposes,” Prof. Krolikowski said.
“This is the first time these feats have been achieved by scientists.”
A change in light’s colour alters its frequency, an essential process in optical technologies including next-generation telecommunications.
Krolikowski said scientists were previously restricted to one- or two-dimensional structures in nonlinear photonic crystals, which had limited scope to change light.
“We found an innovative way to modify them in three dimensions to unlock exciting new capabilities,” he said.
Co-researcher Dr Yan Sheng from ANU said the research team experimented with ultrashort laser pulses to change the internal structure of a nonlinear crystal, which was able to convert an invisible light beam into visible light.
“We provide the first proof that it is possible to engineer nonlinear crystals in three dimensions for the purpose of light conversion,” he said.
The millimetre-thick device will be able to convert light much more efficiently, and Sheng says they’re now looking to use their technique on more popular and less expensive materials, to make it more attractive to potential commercial partners.
The research by the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering is published in Nature Photonics.