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Using Electromagnetic Simulations to Develop Components for Next Generation Optical Computers

Computers are made up of electrical components called transistors that store and release electrons in the form of electricity. These electrical components form the foundation of modern day electrical computers. However, due to the amount of energy it requires to run an electrical computer, it is unlikely that we will achieve significantly faster computational speeds with the standard electrical computer we are all used to.  A potential solution lies is optical computing, where photons and light are used instead of electricity and electrons to power computers. Developing optical components for use in optical computers involves having a strong understanding of how light interacts with materials, which is what my research focuses on.

The motivation behind this research lies in a previously observed dip in the scattering spectrum of a silver nanoparticle-quantum dot assembly. We are interested in comparing how light behaved in the aforementioned system with a gold-based system. This dip has applications in developing techniques for engineering optical-based transistor. If we are able to control when this dip occurs and when it doesn’t, it could act as an optical modulator, which would allow us to control one light signal with another. Understanding and controlling this behavior is a strong step forward in developing optical transistors and thus optical computers.

My summer research project involves computationally simulating the response of light (absorption and scattering) when incident upon a silver nanoparticle and on silver nanoparticle-quantum dot based assemblies, through a variety of different software, such as MEEP, Lumerical, RSoft and Comsol. One it’s established that we can obtain accurate results with the software that is most advantageous for us to use, we will move onto modeling the same systems previously mentioned, but with gold instead of silver. A graduate student will take experimental measurements on this system, after which we will compare the computational results and experimental results.



Artist interpretation of what a photon might look like inside an optical transistor