Photonics: The Future is Now
If electronics came to define technological progress during the 20th century, photonics is expected to revolutionize innovation in the 21st.
Photonics and nanotechnology take advantage of the fundamental behaviour of light inside novel "designer" materials. These intelligent structures-engineered at nanometer-length scales using the latest breakthroughs in chemistry and physics-are providing the foundation for an entirely new vision of information technology. The resulting devices could be millions of times faster and more powerful than even the most remarkable of today's computing hardware.
Ted Sargent's research has brought this vision of the future into the present. He has created a new type of laser that unites many sophisticated optical devices onto a single, integrated photonic chip. His research links the emerging concept of the photonic circuit with the exploding field of fibre optic networks. Ted Sargent's breakthrough with the lateral current injection laser won him the 1999 NSERC Silver Medal.
Sargent has also shown that a new kind of photonic macrocrystal-one which harnesses nature's underlying drive toward symmetry-will transform how communication networks are built. He works with novel materials that can be induced to organize themselves into specific arrays and patterns, spaced no further apart than the microscopic wavelength of the light which passed through them. He has also developed the photonic heterostructure, which takes advantage of the fact that photons-bundles of light energy-behave both as particles and waves.
As the holder of a Canada Research Chair, Sargent, with his colleagues, will further advance the capacity of innovative nanostructured materials and devices to generate and respond to ultra-high speed streams of digital information. The team will harness the power of laser beams to create low-cost optical components with unprecedented performance.
Sargent's photonics research is not only displacing the electron in computing and communication; it is revealing that these quantum particles-the electron and the photon-may together be exploited through deepened understanding of their fundamental interactions.