Houston University scientists have developed a new optical material for safeguarding drones, surveillance cameras and other equipment from laser attacks.
The scientists have also developed a non-electronic method of telecom switching that could help improve the speed and capacity of internet communications, especially those of 5G networks.
The team led by physics professor Seamus Curran, used tellurium nanorods – produced by naturally occurring bacteria – to create their new material.
According to the scientists, tellurium nanorod is an effective nonlinear optical material, capable of protecting electronic devices against high-intensity bursts of light like that of inexpensive household lasers targeted at aircraft, drones or other critical systems.
Describing the material and its performance as well suited for next-gen optoelectronic and photonic devices, Curran said that they let mother nature do the needful, rather than using materials that are chemically synthesized.
The new findings grew out of earlier work by Curran and his team, working in collaboration with Werner J. Blau of Trinity College Dublin and Ron Oremland with the U.S. Geological Survey.
According to the scientists, using bacteria to create the nanocrystals suggests an environmentally friendly route of synthesis, while generating impressive results:
“Nonlinear optical measurements of this material reveal the strong saturable absorption and nonlinear optical extinctions induced by Mie scattering overbroad temporal and wavelength ranges.”
It was also observed that in both cases, tellurium particles exhibited a superior optical nonlinearity compared to graphene.
The second leg of the university’s research involved the use of a nanocomposite, made up of biologically generated elemental tellurium nanocrystals and a polymer to build an electro-optic switch.
According to Curran, the new electro-optic switch – an electrical device used to modulate beams of light – has proven to reduce damage caused by laser light.
The electro-optic switch could also prove useful in expanding broadband capacity, contends Curran: “We need a massive investment in optical fiber. We need greater bandwidth and switching speeds. And we need all-optical switches to do that.”
Image and content: Pixabay/University of Houston