Skip to main content

"I Have Something You Can't Have, Ha Ha!"


All right, so these Brazilian beetles probably aren't flaunting their diamond based photonic crystals around intentionally, but watching the weevil L. augustus' iridescent green scales shimmer in the light would make any researcher envious.

Especially when diamond structured photonic crystals are needed to create super fast optical computers, and creating the crystals synthetically hasn't worked (despite millions of dollars, complex instrumentation and numerous calculations).

Optical computers use photons in visible light and infrared beams to communicate data and perform digital computations much faster than today's computers, which run on electrons. Right now, electrons travel around on transistor switches on metal wires, storing and processing data, at about 10% the speed of light. Data carried through optical fibers has to be converted from light back to electricity before that information can be accessed on a computer. Optical computers of the future will consist of photons whizzing around on optical fibers or thin films, performing the same functions as a regular computer, but much faster.

But an ultra high speed computing system running on pure light is still a long way off. Researchers are currently trying to make photonic crystals from a transparent semiconductor, using crystals found in L. Augustus' as a model. Unfortunately, researchers can't just stick the beetle's scales into your desktop- they are made of out material similar to your fingernails, which doesn't bend light well enough to be used in computers, and wouldn’t last long anyway. Photonic crystals, whenever they are successfully designed, would control the movement of photons in future computers by guiding and bending light in extremely small spaces. In the meantime, we can all ponder over nature's effortless ability to create things that we can't.

Comments

Popular Posts

How 4,000 Physicists Gave a Vegas Casino its Worst Week Ever

What happens when several thousand distinguished physicists, researchers, and students descend on the nation’s gambling capital for a conference? The answer is "a bad week for the casino"—but you'd never guess why.

Ask a Physicist: Phone Flash Sharpie Shock!

Lexie and Xavier, from Orlando, FL want to know:
"What's going on in this video? Our science teacher claims that the pain comes from a small electrical shock, but we believe that this is due to the absorption of light. Please help us resolve this dispute!"

The Science of Ice Cream: Part One

Even though it's been a warm couple of months already, it's officially summer. A delicious, science-filled way to beat the heat? Making homemade ice cream.

(We've since updated this article to include the science behind vegan ice cream. To learn more about ice cream science, check out The Science of Ice Cream, Redux)

Over at Physics@Home there's an easy recipe for homemade ice cream. But what kind of milk should you use to make ice cream? And do you really need to chill the ice cream base before making it? Why do ice cream recipes always call for salt on ice?