Physicists have managed to conduct electricity very close to the speed of light

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Ricky Joseph

For data transfer and computing, the faster we can displace electrons and conduct electricity, the better. It turns out that a group of researchers was able to transport electrons at speeds of less than a quadrillion seconds in an experimental setup.

They manipulated the electrons with light waves that are specially crafted and produced by an ultrafast laser. It may be a long time before this kind of setup makes it to its portable form, but the fact that they created it promises a significant step forward in terms of what we can expect from our future devices.

The laser used by the team was able to push out one hundred million one-cycle pulses of light every second to generate a measurable current. Using nanoscale arc-shaped gold antennas (as shown in the featured image in the story), the pulse's electric field was concentrated downward in a space just six nanometers wide (six millionths of a meter).

As a result of their specialized setup and the electron tunnel and the acceleration produced, the researchers were able to exchange electric currents well under a femtosecond - less than half a period of oscillation of the electric field of the light pulses.

Going beyond the constraints of conventional silicon semiconductor technology has proven to be a major challenge for scientists, but using the insanely fast oscillations of light to help electrons gain speed could provide new ways to push the limits of electronics.

This is something that could be very advantageous in the next generation of computers: scientists are currently experimenting with how light and electronics could work together in all sorts of different ways.

They believe that the limitations of current computing systems could be overcome using plasmonic nanoparticles and optoelectronic devices, using the characteristics of light pulses to manipulate electrons at super-small scales.

The next step is to perform the same experiment with a variety of different configurations. This approach may even offer new insights into quantum computing, the researchers say, although there is still much more work to be done.

The research was published in Nature Physics, click here to access it.

SOURCE / Science Alert

Ricky Joseph is a seeker of knowledge. He firmly believes that through understanding the world around us, we can work to better ourselves and our society as a whole. As such, he has made it his life's mission to learn as much as he can about the world and its inhabitants. Joseph has worked in many different fields, all with the aim of furthering his knowledge. He has been a teacher, a soldier, and a businessman - but his true passion lies in research. He currently works as a research scientist for a major pharmaceutical company, where he is dedicated to finding new treatments for diseases that have long been considered incurable. Through diligence and hard work, Ricky Joseph has become one of the foremost experts on pharmacology and medicinal chemistry in the world. His name is known by scientists everywhere, and his work continues to improve the lives of millions.