New Delhi: A team of scientists, including a young Indian, have developed the fastest electric current inside a solid material, which could transform electronic devises like computers or mobile phones ever-faster.
Over the past five decades, scientists have been able to reduce the size of transistors used in modern electronic devises to fit inside an integrated chip, allowing an increasing number of operations to be performed by them. This has led to a revolution in human capacity of fast computing.
However, now further miniaturization of transistors is not possible owing to quantum uncertainty due to leakage of current from very small dimension transistors. An alternative path for faster computing is not possible with batteries installed inside the device.
A team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics found light waves derived from lasers a promising alternative.
"Light waves are electromagnetic in nature and encompass very high oscillation frequency of electric and magnetic fields. This ultrahigh frequency of light waves can be used to drive and control electron motion in semiconductors. Electronics when driven by such light waves will be inherently faster than current state of the art electronics by more than six orders of magnitude i.e. a million times faster than present devices," said Manish Garg, lead author of the study, which was published in Nature.
By using ultrafast laser flashes, the scientists led by Dr. Eleftherios Goulielmakis, head of the 'Attoelectronics' research group at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics generated and measured the fastest electric current inside a solid material. The electrons executed eight million billion oscillations per second, setting a record of human control of electrons inside solids.
"We had demonstrated possibility of such high frequency electric currents to be existing in solids, when driven by intense light waves. In this new work we have measured a record breaking frequency of electric current inside solids which is close to 10 petahertz. We have also been able to control such electric currents and reproducibly produce them in the lab," Garg told Indian Science Journal (ISJ).
Garg told ISJ, the team is now focusing on performing proof of concept experiments in the lab, which will be used by the industries to build on it to commercialise the technology. He said, solid-state photonics with lasers has remained eclipsed for very long due to material damage caused by lasers.
"With advanced fabrication techniques where ultra thin solids (nanometer dimension) can be routinely prepared in the labs and with the availability of ultrafast lasers we have been able to overcome the hurdle. Photonics with solids has a lot of potential in industry in data-processing and communication," explained Garg.
"The possibility of having light replace conventional sources of electricity, such as batteries in order to generate electric currents inside solid materials, like those used in the electronic industry, has captured the imagination of scientists for more than a century," said Eleftherios Goulielmakis.
"Our work opens up the route to realizing coherent electronics in bulk materials, an idea earlier conceivable only for isolated molecules. As electrons move coherently they also generate light which is the key element of photonics. For this reason it may soon allow us to unify two important areas of modern science and technology, electronics and photonics," Goulielmakis added.