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SET for Britain Engineering 2015

Wing Ng to present novel optical buffer technology poster at the Houses of Parliament

Postdoc Wing Ng in Professor Anthony Kenyon's Lab has been invited to present a poster about his research in the House of Commons on 9th March as part of the SET for Britain 2015 competition. Dr Ng's research poster features his proposed solution for this problem, titled 'Storing Light Using Nano-Bridges'. Optical communication, in particular via the internet, has become one of the most important necessities in 21st century life. Internet traffic from financial transactions to video streaming all relies on a global optical fibre network. With an ever increasing amount of internet data travelling through the global network, it is important to develop new technologies to cope with ever increasing demands for faster connections and greater capacity.

One way of improving the network capacity is to make the existing network work more efficiently. One of the most inefficient parts of the network is the method of storing the data before routing to different parts of the network. This is called "buffering". The current technology relies on the optical signal being converted to electrical signal for storage before routing. This optical to electrical signal conversion is undesirable because it slows down the transmission speed. The aim of Dr Ng's project is to fabricate a nanoscale optical buffer device that can temporarily store optical signals. The device geometry consists of two "nano-bridge" waveguides which are suspended in air. The spacing between the waveguides are adjustable using MEMS actuation, and this allows us to tune the amount of optical delay (storage time) of the optical signal. Fabricating such a structure is very challenging since it requires precision control of the structure dimensions. Dr Ng and colleagues have developed the fabrication technique that enable the construction of such a structure.

The work is on-going and the next step is to test and characterise the device to demonstrate its functionality as an optical buffer. The impact of developing such structure is not just confined in the optical communication area, but also in other areas such as optical storage. Furthermore, we can also use the movable nano-bridge concept to develop optical bio-sensors for bio-technology applications.