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PUNE: Indian and German physicists have made a pathbreaking discovery that can help miniaturise chips for building optical computers a million times faster than present computers.

The recent study, led by Ashish Arora from IISER in Pune, and Rudolf Bratschitsch from University of Münster in Germany, was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Arora said, “One of the problems with conventional optical isolators is that they are quite large, with sizes ranging between several millimetre and several centimetre. Researchers have not yet been able to create miniaturised integrated optical systems on a chip that are comparable to everyday silicon-based electronic technologies. Current integrated optical chips consist of only a few hundred elements.”

In comparison, a computer processor chip contains many billions of switching elements. The new research is a step forward in developing miniaturised optical isolators. The 2D materials used by the researchers are only a few atomic layers thick, a statement issued by IISER, Pune said. Arora said, “These material are only one molecule thick, which is a hundred thousand times thinner than a human hair, nothing can go thinner than this. Surprisingly, this Faraday rotation is so large.”

Explaining the physics, he said, “We used a property of these materials that at certain wavelengths, something known as an exciton, can be created in the material. This excitation rotates the plane of polarisation very strongly when the material is placed under a magnetic field.”

Bratschitsch said, “In the future, 2D materials could become the core of optical isolators and enable on-chip integration for today’s optical and future quantum optical computing and communication technologies.”

Arora said performing such sensitive experiments on 2D materials is not easy since the sample areas are tiny. “We had to create a new method to measure Faraday rotation which is about 1,000 times faster than the previous technique,” he said.

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