Year/Course: 2009-2010, Easter 2010

Contacts: Dr. Jacqui Cole, Tze-Chia Lin & Andrew Higginbotham, Physics

Non-linear optical materials have a wide range of uses, including high-speed optical switching and phase modulation. This makes them important as electro-optic modulators in fibre-optic telecommunications, optical computing, and in the development of lasers operating at different frequencies (for example, a red laser can be converted to a green laser using a frequency doubling optical modulator). Most current optical switches are based on inorganic crystalline materials which have a limited speed of response.

Dr Jacqui Cole and her team have identified four classes of organic materials which are best suited to the requirements of optical switches. These materials demonstrate a high switching speed with a high yield, allowing the manufacture of optical modulators which are faster and more efficient than existing solutions. The new materials are expected to be cheaper to manufacture than the commonly-used inorganic materials, and will also be compatible with existing waveguide and CMOS technologies to allow the simple replacement of current components.

The task for the i-Teams is to identify the best target applications for these new materials, and to gather the relevant market requirements for the researchers. This will allow them to further develop and refine the new materials for particular real-world uses.