Intelligent interaction between light and material

Intelligent interaction between light and material

A collaboration between McMaster and Harvard researchers has generated a new platform in which light beams communicate with one another through solid matter, establishing the foundation to explore a new form of computing.

The technology brings together a form of hydrogel with light manipulation and measurement techniques specific to the chemistry of materials that respond to light. This translucent material, which resembles Jell-O in appearance, incorporates light-responsive molecules whose structure changes in the presence of light, giving the gel special properties both to contain light beams and to transmit information between them.

Typically, beams of light broaden as they travel, but the gel is able to contain filaments of laser light along their pathway through the material, as though the light were being channeled through a pipe.

The interaction between those filaments of light can be stopped, started, managed and read, producing a predictable, high-speed output: a form of information that could be developed into a circuit-free form of computing.

The paper has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (

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