Scientists have created rewritable optical components for 2D light waves (surface light waves). A polariton is a particle that blurs the line between light and matter when certain materials confine a wave of light on a 2D plane. Polaritons allow light to be tightly confined to the nanoscale, potentially to a few atoms in thickness. This capability has intriguing implications for optical circuits’ future. Unlike electronic integrated circuits, it is difficult to miniaturize integrated optics using commonly used materials: All current methods of controlling light are three-dimensional.
The ability of fully reprogrammable optical circuits to control and confine light is critical for future highly integrated nanophotonic devices.
Previously, the team demonstrated a method for creating and controlling polaritons by trapping light in a hexagonal boron nitride flake. The flakes were placed on the surface of a material known as GeSbTe (GST) in this study — the same material used on the surface of rewriteable CDs and Blu-ray discs.
GST’s rewriteable property allows for the recording, erasing, and rewriting information bits using simple laser pulses. Using that principle, the researchers created lenses, prisms, and waveguides by directly writing them into the material layer. The study could lead to the development of new chips for applications such as single-molecule chemical sensing.