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Explorations in Science and Technology

Ultrafast Research Chases Light


Pitt research in photonics—the science of light—promises to enhance electronic devices ranging from cell phones to spy satellites.

Physicist David Snoke has discovered a way to create and move small bits of optical energy called “excitons” over long distances. This research could lead to smaller, faster circuits and semiconductors.

Atomic and quantum motion occur on such a small scale as to elude even the most precise measurement instruments, but Pitt physicist Hrvoje Petek uses ultrafast microscopy to image nanostructures on metal and semiconductor surfaces. At Pitt’s Petersen Institute for NanoScience and Engineering, Petek and engineering professor Hong Koo Kim are among the researchers who analyze nanomaterials at the atomic level. 

Harnessing electronic excitation on metal and semiconductor surfaces should lead to new technology that combines photonics with conventional electronics—which in turn “should lead to electronic devices that are much faster and that would consume much less energy,” says Petek.