Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Hydrogel-Based Nanoparticles Make Photonic Crystals

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers reported at the 223rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society that they have created hydrogel-based nanoparticles that could be used to fabricate photonic crystals with adjustable optical properties (See an article about this at UniSci here). This optical tuning can be accomplished via the thermal adjustment of the water contained within the particles. The nanoparticles could be used to make crystals designed to transfer a narrow range of wavelengths, so that data carried on optical fibers at specific wavelengths can be retrieved.

The way I understand it, if you can have such fine and easy discrimination between wavelengths as they claim, then the bandwidth of a single fiber would be tremendous. More specifically, the frequency (i.e. wavelength) resolution within the bandwidth would be significantly increased. Imagine all the possible wavelengths that could now be carrying information!

The medical applications could include new diagnostics tools based on particles that react in the presence of certain biological molecules. "We have a very simple and easy processing method for taking one type of particle and creating a whole host of optical materials from it, as opposed to having to synthesize a new particle for each optical material you would like," boasted Georgia Tech researcher Andrew Lyon. Heating the material above the transition temperature converts it to a fluid state that can be cast, molded, or spin-coated with standard processing methods.

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