Photonic Crystal: Topology Protects Light Propagation

Scientists have observed light traveling through a unique substance without reflections. The photonic crystal substance comprises two pieces with subtly different perforation patterns. Light can move along the border between these two regions uniquely because it is “topologically protected” and does not reflect flaws. The light follows the boundary without any issues, even when it makes a sharp corner.

The study team is the first to directly witness topologically protected light propagating at the technologically significant size of nanophotonic chips. They intend to expand the application possibilities by purposefully using silicon chips and light with a wavelength similar to that used in telecommunication.

Researchers drew inspiration from electronic materials, where a novel class of materials known as topological insulators exhibit unusual behavior. Topological insulators display an unusual transmission type, unlike most materials, which are either conductive for electrons or not (making them an insulator).

They will now examine whether topological protection has any basic or practical limitations and what aspects of optical chip functionality we could enhance using these ideas. They prioritize making integrated photonic crystal light sources on a photonic chip more dependable. Regarding green ICT or energy-efficient data handling, this is crucial. Additionally, the efficient transmission of small quantum information packages can be made possible by the topological protection of light.

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