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Nano Antenna Steers Photons

Thu, 08/26/2010 - 10:20am
Article Source: Technology Review, published by MIT

A new optical antenna could improve the efficiency of devices that handle just a few photons at a time, such as quantum computers and quantum cryptography circuits. The antenna, which receives and transmits light in one direction, is a few hundred nanometers in size. With five nanoscopic gold bars of diminishing length sitting across one larger bar, it resembles a directional TV antenna.

Niek van Hulst, a professor at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, led the development of the nano-antenna. He says it could prove useful for quantum computing and quantum cryptography because it can transmit light in a single direction. Currently, the components used to emit and detect photons for these purposes do so in all directions.

"It's very difficult to control where the photons go," he says. Van Hulst and colleagues took inspiration for the new device from a type of radio antenna called a Yagi-Uda antenna. "We use exactly the same one used to detect TV signals," he says. The length of a Yagi-Uda antenna needs to be roughly the same as the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation it's tuned to. For light, this is the nanometer range.

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