Story 2016-10-28

Electric current at record speed, thanks to lasers

in science on (#1ZMNG)
Scientists have generated the fastest electric current that has ever been measured inside a solid material. They made electrons in silicon dioxide oscillate with ultrafast laser pulses. The detected electric currents are approximately one million times faster than those widely used in a modern computer processor.

The researchers are also interested in exploring the physical limits: "As electrons move coherently they also generate light which is the key element of photonics. For this reason we may soon be able to unify two important areas of modern science and technology: electronics and photonics," Goulielmakis says. At the same time, the approach could pave the way for electronic devices which are one million times faster than those available today.

The possibility of having light replace conventional sources of electricity, such as batteries in order to generate electric currents inside solid materials, has captured the imagination of scientists for more than a century. The attempts to observe currents in solid materials by shining light on them have remained without any success for the past few decades. "Today, however, control of matter with lasers is rapidly advancing and the capability to measure light fields with ever finer precision has turned to reality."