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Photonic integrated circuits that use light instead of electricity for computing and signal processing promise greater speed, increased bandwidth, and greater energy efficiency than traditional circuits using electricity.

But they're not yet small enough to compete in computing and other applications where continue to reign.

Electrical engineers at the University of Rochester believe they've taken a major step in addressing the problem. Using a material widely adopted by photonics researchers, the Rochester team has created the smallest electro-optical modulator yet. The modulator is a key component of a photonics-based chip, controlling how light moves through its .

In Nature Communications, the lab of Qiang Lin, professor of electrical and computer engineering, describes using a thin film of lithium niobate (LN) bonded on a silicon dioxide layer to create not only the smallest LN modulator yet, but also one that operates at high speed and is energy efficient.

This "paves a crucial foundation for realizing large-scale LN photonic integrated circuits that are of immense importance for broad applications in data communication, microwave photonics, and quantum photonics," writes lead author Mingxiao Li, a graduate student in Lin's lab.

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Category: Science
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