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The internet could soon shift into overdrive thanks to a new generation of optical molecules developed and tested by a team of researchers from Washington State University, the University of Leuven in Belgium and the Chinese Academy of Science in China.
The new materials, organic molecules known as chromophores, interact more strongly with light than any molecules ever tested. That makes them, or other molecules designed along the same principles, prime candidates for use in optical technologies such as optical switches, internet connections, optical memory systems and holograms. The molecules were synthesized by chemists in China, evaluated according to theoretical calculations by a physicist at WSU and tested for their actual optical properties by chemists in Belgium.
The new design parameters call for a molecular structure that increases a property known as the “intrinsic hyperpolarizability,” which reflects how readily electrons in the molecule deform when the molecule mediates the merger of two photons into one, an action which is the basis of an optical switch.
“To our great excitement, the molecules performed better than any other molecules ever measured,” said WSU physicist Mark Kuzyk.