Faster and more efficient, photonic computers promise to be the new paradigm in hardware architecture. Using light to process data – instead of electrons, as is currently the case – these machines only exist, however, in terms of ideas. But results of a research that has as one of the coordinators Prof. Eduardo Bedê Barros, head of the Physics Department at the Federal University of Ceará, may contain the decisive elements to bring fiction to reality. Not surprisingly, the study’s revolutionary potential led it to be published, this July, in the world renowned journal Nature.
The article called “Deep strong light-matter coupling in plasmonic nanoparticle crystals” brings these advances, which are in the sphere of nanoscience, an area that studies the properties of matter from microscopic structures, of nanoscale scale (1 nanometer = 1 billionth of a meter). This universe is already being studied by Prof. Eduardo Bedê 15 years ago and, two years ago, he started the current research. The study was carried out in partnership with his former doctoral student Bruno Gondim Vieira, with groups led by Prof. Stephanie Reich, from the Free University of Berlin, and Prof. Florian Schulz, from the University of Hamburg, both in Germany.
“When we started collaborating on the study of these materials and their properties, I had no idea that this would lead to something so interesting and revolutionary”, points out the professor. In the research, crystals formed by tiny gold balls were used, creating an interaction with light so strong and never equaled that the nature of the light changes, creating a new “molecule” formed from the mixture between that light and the electrons ( particles that revolve around the nucleus of the atom) of the gold balls.
To clarify this, the professor mentions the example of water, which is formed by the H2O molecule. Two hydrogen atoms join one of oxygen to form the water molecule. Likewise, in the experiment used, the light particles, called photons, join with the gold electrons forming this new “molecule”. And how important is that? The professor explains: “the materials obtained and studied in this work can be the cornerstone for the development of photonic computers”.
Eduardo Bedê says that current computers use electrons to perform data processing, but the problem is that these particles dissipate a lot of energy. “For that reason, our computers get hot. In addition, the processing speed is limited by the mass of the electron: the greater the mass, the faster the computer can be. Doing light processing would allow faster processing speeds, in addition to less energy dissipation ”, he explains.
It is not the first time that science has managed to perform the interaction between light and matter. The published Nature article, however, is highlighted for two reasons: one is that the experiment breaks all records regarding the level of interaction reached; the other is that the experiment was carried out directly on a material, which was palpable and stable, and could therefore be reproduced outside the laboratory environment. “This allows several scientific experiments to be carried out that were previously inaccessible. The consequence of this is that they can be directly applied to technological solutions ”, points out the researcher.
NEW PERSPECTIVES – Prof. Eduardo Bedê explains that his contribution to this study, together with Bruno Gondim Vieira, was of a theoretical nature, developing the mathematical models that helped to understand the properties of this material. He adds that, at the moment, the research evolves in two directions, which lead to encouraging perspectives.
The first is to search for new structures from the combination of different metallic particles, which can culminate in the inauguration of a new area of engineering of photonic materials, “in which we can control the properties of these materials in a similar way to the one we use in engineering of electronic materials ”, he indicates.
The other direction is to study two-dimensional materials formed from these structures, “that is, instead of having several and several layers of nanoparticles, we have only one or two layers. These systems can have other interesting properties, in addition to terms on how to manipulate these properties externally ”, explains the researcher.
INTERNATIONAL EXCELLENCE – Eduardo Bedê Barros holds a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in Physics from UFC. The Postgraduate Program in Physics (PPGFis), in which Eduardo Bedê now works as a permanent professor, has recognized international excellence, with a maximum score (7) in all evaluations of the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES).
The initial milestone of the aforementioned research came when Prof. Stephanie Reich, from Germany, came to Fortaleza for the 25th International Raman Spectroscopy Conference (ICORS 2016) and, here, she spoke with Eduardo Bedê (who already knew her from Instituto Tecnológico de Massachussets – MIT, where he did a sandwich internship) on the researches on the interaction of gold nanoparticles with the light it performed.
The conference brought by the researcher was promoted by UFC (organized by Prof. Antonio Gomes de Souza Filho), by the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and by the University of São Paulo (USP). It was the first time that the event took place in Latin America and, on the occasion, the UFC signed a memorandum for cooperation with German educational and research institutions in the field of photonic technology.
Source: Professor Eduardo Bedê Barros, from the Physics Department at UFC – e-mail: email@example.com