No matter how precise nanosensors and -probes become, bridging the huge gap between nanoscale dimensions and macroscale structures (e.g., wafer size) has been a tremendous challenge for researchers. Researchers in the U.S. have demonstrated a generalized hybrid nanofabrication concept that combines both top-down (deep-UV lithography) and bottom-up (controlled lateral epitaxial growth and atomic layer deposition) fabrication techniques. This unique methodology allows the development of reproducible nanostructured platforms that contain controlled sub-10 nm gaps between plasmonic nanostructures over an entire wafer, i.e. a 6-12 inch area. This approach opens new horizons to more widespread applications in chemical sensing and biomedical diagnostics.
Silicon and III-V semiconductors are the respective foundations of modern electronics and photonics. Integrating these materials is essential for achieving new optoelectronic functionality and faster computer architecture. However, lattice mismatch and high III-V growth temperatures have prevented such integration thus far. Most importantly, in order to be able to take advantage of today's massive silicon infrastructure, integration must be compatible with current complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) infrastructure and process flows. Researchers at UC Berkeley have overcome these obstacles by developing a way to grow III-V nanolasers on silicon, demonstrating the potency of bottom-up nano-optoelectronic integration.
One of the many fascinating concepts in nanotechnology is the vision of molecular electronics where researchers are investigating nanostructured materials to build electronics from individual molecules. If realized, the shift in size from even the most densely packed computer chip today would be staggering. Molecular electronics aims at the fundamental understanding of charge transport through molecules and is motivated by the vision of molecular circuits to enable miniscule, powerful and energy efficient computers. A research team in Germany has now demonstrated that rigidly wired molecules can emit light under voltage bias. This result is important for fundamental science but it also adds to the molecular electronics vision an optoelectronic component, i.e. the development of optoelectronic components on the basis of single molecules.
Aberrations in optical systems, which leads to blurring of the image, and their elimination using adaptive optics have been studied in astronomical research for quite a long time. Aberrations occur when light from one point of an object after transmission through the optical system does not converge into a single point. The complicated part in correcting this error usually lies in identifying the aberrations that need to be eliminated from the system. With the emergence of nanoscale applications, aberrations in modern microscopy have become a severe limitation on the optimal performance in imaging, nanosurgery, nanofabrication and micromanipulation, just to name a few. Researchers have now demonstrated a powerful method for aberration correction with a simple implementation that typically requires minimal changes in the particular geometry.
OLEDs - organic light-emitting diodes - are full of promise for a range of practical applications. OLED technology is based on the phenomenon that certain organic materials emit light when fed by an electric current and it is already used in small electronic device displays in mobile phones, MP3 players, digital cameras, and also some TV screens. With more efficient and cheaper OLED technologies it will possible to make ultra flat, very bright and power-saving OLED televisions, windows that could be used as light source at night, and large-scale organic solar cells. In contrast to regular LEDs, the emissive electroluminescent layer of an OLED consists of a thin-film of organic compounds. Exciton quenching and photon loss processes still limit OLED efficiency and brightness. Organic light-emitting transistors (OLETs) are alternative, planar light sources combining, in the same architecture, the switching mechanism of a thin-film transistor and an electroluminescent device. Thus, OLETs could open a new era in organic optoelectronics and serve as test beds to address general fundamental optoelectronic and photonic issues.
Silicon has dominated solid-state electronics for more than four decades but now a variety of other materials are being explored in photonic devices to expand the wavelength range of operation and to improve performance. Graphene is such a material - although most research on graphene so far has focused mainly on electronics. IBM researchers have now shown that graphene-based devices can be used in optical communications. Introducing this new material system into photonics could have a significant impact on mainstream optical applications. By using graphene, researchers make use of the internal electric field that exists at the interface of graphene and metal. Through a sophisticated combination of palladium and titanium electrodes they created a photodetector that does not rely on external current.
Spectrometers are used in materials analysis by measuring the absorption of light by a surface or chemical substance. These instruments measure properties of light over a specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. In conventional spectrometers, a diffraction grating splits the light source into several beams with different propagation directions according to the wavelength of the light. Thus, to achieve sufficient spatial separation for intensity measurements at a small slit, a long light path - i.e., a large instrument - is required. However, for lab-on-a-chip applications, the spectrometer must be integrated into a sub-centimeter scale device to produce a stand-alone platform. To achieve this, researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) propose a new paradigm in which the spectrometer is based on an array of photonic crystals with different bandgaps.
A group of researchers from Singapore, led by Professor Dingyuan Tang from Nanyang Technological University and Professor Kian Ping Loh from National University of Singapore, have reported the first breakthrough in using few-layer graphene as a saturable absorber for the mode locking of lasers. Despite its prominent mechanical and electrical properties, graphene's optical response has previously been considered to be weak and featureless, so the main interests of the research community are centered on its electronics properties. But now, Tang and Loh demonstrate that graphene can be used for telecommunications applications and that its weak and universal optical response might be turned into advantages for ultrafast photonics applications.