Turning a tiny mechanical switch by using light

Bridge turned up by the light (top), Bridge turned down (Down)
Bridge turned up by the light (top), Bridge turned down (Down)

Scientists are working on the usage of light to vibrate and control the tiny objects for more than 6 years.

Now a team of electrical engineers reports in the journal of Nature Nanotechnology that light can turn the nanometer sized switch on or off i.e. one side or the other.

Researchers from Yale University have used laser light to shift energy to a tiny bridge of silicon and enable it to move between two states i.e. making it to work just like a mechanical switch. Dimensions of the bridge are: 10 micrometers long, 500 nanometers wide and 110 nanometers thick. It was suspended about 250 nanometers above a glass chip. When the researchers etched out the glass from under it, the silicon expanded, resulting in curved bridge, which is in either upward direction or downward direction.

Researchers used shorter, more energetic wavelengths to move the bridge to normal position from the down position and they used long, less energetic wavelengths to move the bridge to the up position. As shorter and more energetic wavelengths caused the bridge to vibrate more because of energy absorption and long, less energetic vibrations cause the bridge to withdraw energy and come to the normal position.

More interestingly, the researchers achieved this at room temperature and without power, so opening new ways of memory bit for an optical computation.


Mahmood Bagheri et. al. (2011). Dynamic manipulation of nanomechanical resonators in the high-amplitude regime and non-volatile mechanical memory operation. Nature Nanotechnology, doi:10.1038/nnano.2011.180


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