Prospects of developing computing and communication technologies based on quantum properties of light and matter may have taken a major step forward thanks to research by City College of New York physicists led by Dr. Vinod Menon.
In a pioneering study, Professor Menon and his team were able to discover half-light, half-matter particles in atomically thin semiconductors (thickness ~ a millionth of a single sheet of paper) consisting of two-dimensional (2D) layer of molybdenum and sulfur atoms arranged similar to graphene. They sandwiched this 2D material in a light trapping structure to realize these composite quantum particles.
“Besides being a fundamental breakthrough, this opens up the possibility of making devices which take the benefits of both light and matter,” said Professor Menon.
For example one can start envisioning logic gates and signal processors that take on best of light and matter. The discovery is also expected to contribute to developing practical platforms for quantum computing.
Dr. Dirk Englund, a professor at MIT whose research focuses on quantum technologies based on semiconductor and optical systems, hailed the City College study.
“What is so remarkable and exciting in the work by Vinod and his team is how readily this strong coupling regime could actually be achieved. They have shown convincingly that by coupling a rather standard dielectric cavity to exciton–polaritons in a monolayer of molybdenum disulphide, they could actually reach this strong coupling regime with a very large binding strength,” he said.
Professor Menon’s research team included City College PhD students, Xiaoze Liu, Tal Galfsky and Zheng Sun, and scientists from Yale University, National Tsing Hua University (Taiwan) and Ecole Polytechnic -Montreal (Canada).
The study appears in the January issue of the journal “Nature Photonics.” It was funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation through the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center – Center for Photonic and Multiscale Nanomaterials.
The HARPS instrument at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has been used to make the most complete census of comets around another star ever created. A French team of astronomers has studied nearly 500 individual comets orbiting the star Beta Pictoris and has discovered that they belong to two distinct families of exocomets: old exocomets that have made multiple passages near the star, and younger exocomets that probably came from the recent breakup of one or more larger objects. The new results will appear in the journal Nature on 23 October 2014.
Beta Pictoris is a young star located about 63 light-years from the Sun. It is only about 20 million years old and is surrounded by a huge disc of material — a very active young planetary system where gas and dust are produced by the evaporation of comets and the collisions of asteroids.
Flavien Kiefer (IAP/CNRS/UPMC), lead author of the new study sets the scene: “Beta Pictoris is a very exciting target! The detailed observations of its exocomets give us clues to help understand what processes occur in this kind of young planetary system.”
For almost 30 years astronomers have seen subtle changes in the light from Beta Pictoris that were thought to be caused by the passage of comets in front of the star itself. Comets are small bodies of a few kilometres in size, but they are rich in ices, which evaporate when they approach their star, producing gigantic tails of gas and dust that can absorb some of the light passing through them. The dim light from the exocomets is swamped by the light of the brilliant star so they cannot be imaged directly from Earth.
The researchers selected a sample of 493 different exocomets. Some exocomets were observed several times and for a few hours. Careful analysis provided measurements of the speed and the size of the gas clouds. Some of the orbital properties of each of these exocomets, such as the shape and the orientation of the orbit and the distance to the star, could also be deduced.
This analysis of several hundreds of exocomets in a single exo-planetary system is unique. It revealed the presence of two distinct families of exocomets: one family of old exocomets whose orbits are controlled by a massive planet , and another family, probably arising from the recent breakdown of one or a few bigger objects. Different families of comets also exist in the Solar System.
The exocomets of the first family have a variety of orbits and show a rather weak activity with low production rates of gas and dust. This suggests that these comets have exhausted their supplies of ices during their multiple passages close to Beta Pictoris .
The exocomets of the second family are much more active and are also on nearly identical orbits . This suggests that the members of the second family all arise from the same origin: probably the breakdown of a larger object whose fragments are on an orbit grazing the star Beta Pictoris.
Flavien Kiefer concludes: “For the first time a statistical study has determined the physics and orbits for a large number of exocomets. This work provides a remarkable look at the mechanisms that were at work in the Solar System just after its formation 4.5 billion years ago.”
 A giant planet, Beta Pictoris b, has also been discovered in orbit at about a billion kilometres from the star and studied using high resolution images obtained with adaptive optics.
 Moreover, the orbits of these comets (eccentricity and orientation) are exactly as predicted for comets trapped inorbital resonance with a massive planet. The properties of the comets of the first family show that this planet in resonance must be at about 700 million kilometres from the star — close to where the planet Beta Pictoris b was discovered.
Researchers at DTU Fotonik have reclaimed the world data transfer record.
By Lotte Krull
The world champions in data transmission are to be found in Lynbgy, where the High-Speed Optical Communications (HSOC) team at DTU Fotonik has just secured yet another world record. This time, the team has eclipsed the record that was set by researchers at the Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie, by proving that it is possible to transfer fully 43 terabits per second with just a single laser in the transmitter. This is an appreciable improvement on the German team’s previous record of 32 terabits per second.
The worldwide competition in data speed is contributing to developing the technology intended to accommodate the immense growth of data traffic on the internet, which is estimated to be growing by 40–50 per cent annually. What is more, emissions linked to the total energy consumption of the internet as a whole currently correspond to more than two per cent of the global man-made carbon emissions—which puts the internet on a par with the transport industry (aircraft, shipping etc.). However, these other industries are not growing by 40 per cent a year. It is therefore essential to identify solutions for the internet that make significant reductions in energy consumption while simultaneously expanding the bandwidth. This is precisely what the DTU team has demonstrated with its latest world record. DTU researchers have previously helped achieve the highest combined data transmission speed in the world—an incredible 1 petabit per second—although this involved using hundreds of lasers.
The researchers achieved their latest record by using a new type of optical fibre borrowed from the Japanese telecoms giant NNT. This type of fibre contains seven cores (glass threads) instead of the single core used in standard fibres, which makes it possible to transfer even more data. Despite the fact that it comprises seven cores, the new fibre does not take up any more space than the standard version.
The researchers’ record result has been verified and presented in what is known as a ‘post deadline paper’ at the CLEO 2014 international conference.
The High-Speed Optical Communications team at DTU Fotonik has held the world record in data transmission on numerous occasions. Back in 2009, these researchers were the first in the world to break the ‘terabit barrier’, which was considered an almost insurmountable challenge at that time, when they succeeded in transmitting more than 1 terabit per second—again using just a single laser. The benchmark has now been raised to 43 Tbit/s.