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New Optomechanical Crystal Allows Confinement of Light and Sound 91

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the crystal-lightswitch-rave dept.
PBH writes "Physicists and engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed a nanoscale crystal that traps both light and sound. The interaction of light quanta (photons) and sound quanta (phomons) are so strong that they produce significant mechanical vibrations. 'Indeed, Painter points out, the interactions between sound and light in this device—dubbed an optomechanical crystal—can result in mechanical vibrations with frequencies as high as tens of gigahertz, or 10 billion cycles per second. Being able to achieve such frequencies, he explains, gives these devices the ability to send large amounts of information, and opens up a wide array of potential applications—everything from lightwave communication systems to biosensors capable of detecting (or weighing) a single macromolecule. It could also, Painter says, be used as a research tool by scientists studying nanomechanics. "These structures would give a mass sensitivity that would rival conventional nanoelectromechanical systems because light in these structures is more sensitive to motion than a conventional electrical system is."'"
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New Optomechanical Crystal Allows Confinement of Light and Sound

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    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ColdWetDog (752185)
      Better -- an ansible [wikipedia.org].

      Well, one can dream anyway.
      • by UltraAyla (828879)
        My thoughts exactly. I know almost nothing about the actual deep physics of these, but my first thought with this was to entangle it with another one and make an ansible. mmmmm.
    • by sanman2 (928866) on Monday October 26, 2009 @05:57PM (#29878717)
      I'm not sure what applications extremely high frequency vibrations have, but I'm thinking that this could be used to make better quality audio speakers, microphones, ultrasound, sonar, etc.

      If you have such fine control over vibrations, perhaps you could create fancier waveforms, for sound that has weird properties. Phased array sonar?
      Constructive and destructive interference?
      I own a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones that I enjoy, so maybe that tech would be enhanced by these crystals. Or perhaps you could make sonic weapons by building up massive disruptor wave pulses

      I'm trying to think of what high frequency synchrotron radiation makes possible through EM. The extremly short wavelengths allow imaging of very tiny objects like molecules. So would extremely short mechanical wavelengths allow extremely fine sonic imaging of... individual cells?
      • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Monday October 26, 2009 @06:54PM (#29879235)

        I was thinking more along the lines of communication data. Crystals of this sort could be placed on either end of a pipe, and translate the data into and from ultra high frequency. Essentially working like a switch. If the data travels well in those frequencies, I could see massive potential in communications.

        I also see storage potential here as well.

      • Mechanical vibrations are used to measure molecular relaxations in polymers (rheology and dynamic mechanical analysis). The devices I am most familiar with have an upper limit of about 100 hz, however, by controlling the temperature high frequencies can be effectively measured.

      • by Jurily (900488)

        I'm not sure what applications extremely high frequency vibrations have,

        Do you have a CPU?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I own a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones that I enjoy, so maybe that tech would be enhanced by these crystals.

        LMAO... just mod me troll... just do it before I post ad nauseam how fucking idiodic that is...

      • by Genda (560240)

        Only if you're listening to sounds in the 10 Gigahertz range... I think that's beyond the fidelity of even Bose...

  • Phonon, not phomon (Score:5, Informative)

    by pac109 (1171789) on Monday October 26, 2009 @04:58PM (#29878165)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      But wasn't it Shakespeare who said, "If Guinness be the drink of love, phomon?"
    • Thanks for ending my agonizing 30 seconds of wondering whether I was wrong through 5 years of grad school.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Phomon phonon!

      Doo doo-doo doo doo!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      I'm having trouble wrapping my head around this, despite (or because of?) a class I took in college in the late 70s. Photons I understand; light has characteristics of both waves and particles. That was covered in the class. However, phonons? Sound is simply the vibration of matter. There are no "subatomic sound particles". Where there is no matter there is no sound, unlike light. The vibration of an object IS sound. Nowhere in the wikipedia article about phonons does it say what they actually ARE and why m

      • by Luyseyal (3154)
        The idea is that the physics of sound can be quantized into wave packets. From wikipedia:

        Phonons are a quantum mechanical version of a special type of vibrational motion, known as normal modes in classical mechanics, in which each part of a lattice oscillates with the same frequency. These normal modes are important because, according to a well-known result in classical mechanics, any arbitrary vibrational motion of a lattice can be considered as a superposition of normal modes with various frequencies (compare Fourier transform); in this sense, the normal modes are the elementary vibrations of the lattice. Although normal modes are wave-like phenomena in classical mechanics, they acquire certain particle-like properties when the lattice is analysed using quantum mechanics (see wave-particle duality.)

        -l

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Yes, I read it, I'm still having problems with the concept.

          Although normal modes are wave-like phenomena in classical mechanics, they acquire certain particle-like properties when the lattice is analysed using quantum mechanics (see wave-particle duality.)

          That applies to light, but again, why would you analyse something that has no particle component as if it indeed has one?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Luyseyal (3154)

            I think this is better than the wikipedia intro:
            http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/Solids/phonon.html [gsu.edu]

            The vibrational energies of molecules, e.g., a diatomic molecule, are quantized and treated as quantum harmonic oscillators. Quantum harmonic oscillators have equally spaced energy levels with separation DE = hu. So the oscillators can accept or lose energy only in discrete units of energy hu.

            The evidence on the behavior of vibrational energy in periodic solids is that the collective vibrational modes can accept energy only in discrete amounts, and these quanta of energy have been labeled "phonons". Like the photons of electromagnetic energy, they obey Bose-Einstein statistics.

            -l

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Monday October 26, 2009 @05:06PM (#29878251) Homepage

    ...and maybe have a new kind of microwave antenna?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Well the confined optical mode is 200THz so an RF EM mode wouldn't be confined and therefore wouldn't overlap effectively with the vibronic modes in the nano-structure. I also really doubt that inducing vibrations in the nano-structure would generate an optical (or other EM) field. It's probably a one way coupling given that it's driven by photon pressure and not any net charge in the nano-beam.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by John Hasler (414242)

        > Well the confined optical mode is 200THz so an RF EM mode wouldn't be
        > confined and therefore wouldn't overlap effectively with the vibronic modes
        > in the nano-structure.

        Right. It would be radiated. That's the idea.

        > I also really doubt that inducing vibrations in the nano-structure would
        > generate an optical (or other EM) field.

        The idea is to convert the GHz vibrations into an oscillating electric field. Thus the piezo material (or perhaps electret).

        • I see. So, your idea is to optically excite the structure to induce GHz oscillations and then convert those vibrations into GHz RF by using a piezo-electric material for the nano-beam?

          It's a neat thought, a nano-scale emitter could have interesting applications.

          • I love it when I read /. and can't tell if two people are having a real conversation about some obscure specialized tech or playing a forum version of Mornington Crescent.

            • Ha! I'm out of my league for all the serious techie conversations on /. so I play it up when an article from my field of expertise (optics) comes around :-)
      • vibronic modes in the nano-structure

        I can totally, like, dig that man.

      • by bar-agent (698856)

        Time Cube? Is that you?

  • by camperdave (969942) on Monday October 26, 2009 @05:15PM (#29878355) Journal
    A crystal that captures light and sound...? Wouldn't that be called a DVD?
  • by mpdolan37 (675902)
    This brings to mind the Cone of Silence...
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Also, I'll support the research if it works with my wife. And I'm not talking about blocking the blinding shine of her beauty.
  • Kryptonian? (Score:2, Funny)

    by soconn (1466967)
    Optomechanical Crystal Allows Confinement of Light and Sound ..... Upon hearing the news, General Zod was heard to say... "ohh crap"
  • by JobyOne (1578377) on Monday October 26, 2009 @05:27PM (#29878455) Homepage Journal
    It's not Steampunk fiction meanderings, it's real-life science! Wow.
  • Victory (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by cjfs (1253208)

    Physicists and engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed a nanoscale crystal that traps both light and sound.

    And due to a bizarre property of quantum entanglement, the trapped light and sound can never be reproduced again. Finally we'll be rid of Kanye West.

  • Phonons (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I don't see how this is news. The concept of optical and acoustic phonons has been around for at least the past 50 years. It's long been understood that optical and acoustic phonons exist in periodic potential crystal lattices. It's also been long understood that you can excite both optical and acoustic phonons using optical photons. This is the premise behind coherent raman scattering, which has long been observed. The article makes it seem like this is the first time this concept has ever been discovered.

    • Re:Phonons (Score:4, Funny)

      by fyngyrz (762201) * on Monday October 26, 2009 @05:56PM (#29878713) Homepage Journal

      This is the premise behind coherent raman scattering

      Well, thank goodness. I can never keep that stuff in the bowl; maybe now that the scattering mechanism is understood, I can get a full serving of noodles.

    • Re:Phonons (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Interoperable (1651953) on Monday October 26, 2009 @06:47PM (#29879175)

      "It really annoys me when "prestigious" university professors publish crap like this"

      It really annoys nobodies post crap like that. Raman scattering typically occurs when photons scatter off a molecule or crystal thereby exciting a phonon (a vibration) in the internal structure of the molecule/crystal. This is Raman scattering that excites a nano-structure that is engineered into the beam by the researchers. It is similar to regular Raman scattering, but is an engineered process at this point. It's an extremely exciting result!

      • Re:Phonons (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Artifakt (700173) on Monday October 26, 2009 @07:44PM (#29879621)

        There are all sorts of things that have been theoretically known of for quite some time. Still, if you come up with a new, reliable engineering application with major economic consequences, for the Edison or Peltier effects, Superconductivity, Raleigh scattering, or Frame Dragging, that's quite an accomplishment. Hell, if someone finds a genuinely new application for Archimedes model of a waterscrew as an inclined plane wrapped around a cylender, or Thag's heat from rubbing two sticks together theorem, it's still worth respect.

      • by rgviza (1303161)

        I thought Raman scattering occurred if you didn't open the packaging carefully enough, scattering nano noodles all over the place.

  • Demonstrate this new tech by making a nano-rickroll inside a chrystal.
    • by StikyPad (445176)

      ...making a nano-rickroll inside a chrystal.

      We'll see who gets the last laugh when God finds out you made a crystal out of Jesus.

  • Old news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GigsVT (208848)

    They used one of these to trap the bad guys in that old Superman movie.

  • An entire Telephone/ISP network will now fit on a computer chip? Methinks it's time to get out of the telecomm industry...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 26, 2009 @06:05PM (#29878785)

    "New Optomechanical Crystal Allows Confinement of Light and Sound"

    Oddly enough they named it RIAA.

  • How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased? Please respond Optomechanical Crystal !
  • by eh2o (471262) on Monday October 26, 2009 @06:18PM (#29878891)

    Obviously the nano scale fabrication seen here is an innovation, but the idea of acoustic-optical interactions is not a fundamentally new one. For example an acousto-optical tunable filter uses piezo-actuation (sound) to setup standing waves in a crystal that modulates a band-pass filter. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acousto-optics [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Steve525 (236741)

      This is different than acousto-optics. There is no outside force here; all the movement is generated by the light itself. The miniscule amount of force from the light is enough to excite a resonance in the mechanical structure. The structure is both resonant to light and to acoustics. The two resonances are coupled because as the structure moves, the optical resonance shifts a little bit.

      It is really cool work, but I haven't figured out what it'll be useful for.

      • by LuxMaker (996734)
        My guess is if you want to build a light and sound cloak you would need tech like this. Think super-stealth.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      That, plus, you know, Superman's Fortress of Solitude. We all scoffed at the crystals, but who's laughing now?
  • Put a crap load of these on top of a huge pile of high frequency vibration sensitive super explosives and a cheap ten year battery powered lazer pulser pointed at the crystals in one of those nifty photon torpedo shaped things from the movie and what have you got? Instant photon torpedo.
  • help me with this (Score:3, Interesting)

    by swell (195815) <jabberwock.poetic@com> on Monday October 26, 2009 @07:34PM (#29879547)

    Am I the first to be dazzled by this?

    When electron tubes gave way to transistors I sensed a revolution in progress, but it was hard to wrap my brain around a simple transistor being able to do such a variety of things with such a small energy cost.

    Now this. My now aged brain struggles to comprehend and see the implications. I expect all to be revealed in this forum.

    • by TD-Linux (1295697)
      Unfortunately, these devices are huge compared to transistors, with the device in the picture about 30 micrometers long. While these might be neat for all sorts of sensors and possibly new ways to send information using light or mechanical vibration, I don't expect them to come close to the practicality of transistors for switching or computation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        You seem to have been asleep for the past 50 years, so I will let you in on a little secret. Transistors were big too when they were first invented. They got smaller as there was more investment and research into them. I would not expect the first form of something in the lab to be at the pinnacle of its efficiency.
  • There appears to be a trapped particle vibrating in your first n.
  • Hey lets wrap the whole solar system in this stuff so less advanced aliens can't spy on us.

  • by Traf-O-Data-Hater (858971) on Monday October 26, 2009 @08:50PM (#29880009)
    The concept of this material reminded me of Bob Shaw's science fiction story "The Light of Other Days" in which "slow glass" is used to capture scenes and images which could be released later. Interesting!
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I remember that book! He called it the piezoluctic effect.

  • ...nanoscale crystal that traps both light and sound...

    It's only a matter of time before some idiot unleashes... nano disco...(sob)

  • now i'm waiting for my fiber-optic headphones

    • by Teckla (630646)

      now i'm waiting for my fiber-optic headphones

      I'm holding out for one of these new crystals to hold the audio and video of a complete Low Budget HDV Filipino Horror Movie in NYC myself.

  • This guy has a forum signature that "Light is faster than sound. That is why people appear bright until you hear them speak."

    Now you can capture both in an optomechanical crystal. I would like to see how he weighs in on the issue.

  • My name is Painter, Corel Painter.
  • We finally have the technology to destroy PinHead forever. Amen.

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