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A tsunami holds its wave shape over very long distances across the ocean, retaining its power and 'information' far from its source.

In communications science, retaining information in an optic fibre that spans continents is vital. Ideally, this requires the manipulation of light in silicon chips at the source and reception end of the fibre without altering the wave shape of the photonic packet of information. Doing so has eluded scientists until now.

A collaboration between the University of Sydney Nano Institute and Singapore University of Technology and Design has for the first time manipulated a light wave, or photonic information, on a silicon chip that retains its overall 'shape'.

Such waves -- whether a tsunami or a photonic packet of information -- are known as 'solitons'. The Sydney-Singapore team has for the first time observed 'soliton' dynamics on an ultra-silicon-rich nitride (USRN) device fabricated in Singapore using state-of-the-art optical characterisation tools at Sydney Nano.

This foundational work, published today in Laser & Photonics Reviews, is important because most communications infrastructure still relies on silicon-based devices for propagation and reception of information. Manipulating solitons on-chip could potentially allow for the speed up of photonic communications devices and infrastructure.

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Category: Science