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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Compact and efficient terahertz optical modulators

Shortly after the invention of the laser in 1960, the development of fiber optic technology (thin glass cables used to carry light and transmit data) took off. Fiber optics has since become the foundation of long-distance, high-speed digital communication and is the infrastructure that supports the internet. A key component of this technology is a device called an optical modulator.

These devices are what allow information to be imprinted on a laser beam. A crucial performance measure of an optical modulator is how rapidly it can imprint information on a laser. Currently, the fastest optical modulators work at frequencies of about 100 gigahertz (that is, they can imprint 100 billion bits of information every second). Three years ago, a collaboration was started between the three co-PIs on campus. The goal of this project is to construct compact optical modulators at a frequency of 10 terahertz: 10 trillion bits imprinted every second. This would advance the current state of the art by a factor of 100.


Deniz Yavuz, professor of physics


Dan Van der Weide, professor of electrical engineering

Randall Goldsmith, associate professor of chemistry