Mark Brongersma, at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, US has found a new way to model the three-dimensional propagation of these ripples – called plasmons – in two dimensions. He says the new model is much simpler and more intuitive than existing simulations and will be crucial in the design of plasmonic components for computer chips.
Plasmons travel at the speed of light and are created when light hits a metal at a particular angle, causing waves to propagate through electrons near the surface.
Currently the biggest application for plasmons is in gold-coated glass biosensors, which detect when particular proteins or DNA are present – the bio-matter changes the angle at which light hitting the surface produces the most intense plasmons.
But scientists would love to use plasmons to ferry data around computer chips because they could operate at frequencies 100,000 times faster than today’s Pentium chips, without requiring thicker wiring…