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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P019994/1
Title: Tunable Plasmonics for Ultrafast Switching at Telecom Wavelengths
Principal Investigator: Ferrera, Dr M
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Birck Nanotechnology Center Helia Photonics Purdue University
Department: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 08 March 2017 Ends: 07 March 2019 Value (£): 101,186
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Optical Communications
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies Communications
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Dec 2016 EPSRC Physical Sciences - December 2016 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Today's communication networks need to be supported by an ultra-broadband optical backbone in order to respond to the enormous demand for data exchange. Without the use of photonic components, the "magic" of being 24/7connected on a global scale just by using our portable devices would be impossible.

Recently, a new branch of science, called plasmonics, has gained great momentum in the scientific community, since it brings the promise to be complementary to photonics. For instance, in the realm of plasmonics, devices can function on a nanometric scale (1 nanometer [nm] = a billionth of a meter), with consequent advantages in terms of versatility, scalability, and reduced power consumption.

The proposed project "Tunable plasmonics for Ultrafast Switching at Telecom Wavelengths" is focused on novel materials for plasmonic applications (namely titanium nitride -TiN; and aluminum doped zinc oxide - AZO).

Besides solving fundamental issues typical of plasmonic devices such as poor transparency and low damage threshold, these two materials unable the possibility to engineer the light-matter interaction at will. This can be achieved either by changing the fabrication procedure or in a more dynamic fashion by means of an external excitation such as a laser beam or an applied voltage.

The core active material at the center of this project is a new kind of AZO developed inside the collaborative effort between Heriot-Watt University in UK, and the Birck Nanotechnology Center in USA. This "special" AZO is grown by unconventional methods and it exhibits ultrafast optical response (i.e. after the material properties are altered by an optical pulse, it restores its original behavior on a time scale shorter than 1 ps = 1/1000000000000 sec).

One fundamental goal of this project is gaining a deep knowledge of the physical mechanism behind the ultra-fast behavior of AZO (still not fully understood) and use this knowledge to further optimize the material for application in ultra-fast photonics. In addition to this, in order to properly evaluate the potentials of both AZO and TiN in the real world, this project includes the fabrication and testing of an optical modulator prototype (the modulator being the most fundamental building block for encoding information). This device will be interfaced with the external world with input/output TiN-based plasmonic waveguides and will exploit AZO as active core material for performing the ultra-fast signal encoding. Numerical simulations foresee outstanding performances in terms of compactness, reduced power consumption, and ultra-fast operational speed.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.hw.ac.uk