Three years ago several groups of researchers simultaneously discovered an important effect: they found out that silicon nanoparticles are exhibit strong resonances in the visible spectrum - the so-called magnetic dipole resonances. This type of resonance is characterized by strong localization of light waves on subwavelength scales, inside the nanoparticles. This effect turned out to be interesting to researches, but, according to Maxim Shcherbakov, the first author of the article describing the device published in Nano Letters, nobody thought that this discovery could create a basis for development of a compact and very rapid photonic switch.
Nanoparticles were fabricated in the Australian National University by e-beam lithography followed by plasma-phase etching. It was done by Alexander Shorokhov, who served an internship in the University as a part of Presidential scholarship for studying abroad. The samples were brought to Moscow, and all the experimental work was carried out at the Faculty of Physics of Lomonosov Moscow State University, in the Laboratory of Nanophotonics and Metamaterials.
"In our experimental research, with my colleague Polina Vabishchevich from the Faculty, we used a set of nonlinear optics methods that address femtosecond light-matter," explains Maxim Shcherbakov. "We used our femtosecond laser complex acquired as part of the MSU development program".
Eventually, researches developed a "device" — a disc 250 nm in diameter that is capable of switching optical pulses at femtosecond rates (femtosecond is a one millionth of one billionth of a second). Switching speeds that fast will enable data transmission and processing devices that will work at tens and hundreds terabits per second. At this speed downloading thousands of HD-movies would take less than a second.