Reversing sound to light may provide better computer chips

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Washington, March 17 (ANI): Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory say that they may have developed a new tool to enhance the way computer chips, LEDs, and transistors are built by reversing a process that converts electrical signals into sounds heard out of a cell phone.

The researchers claim that this is the first time that any research team have converted the highest frequency sounds into light by reversing a process that converts electrical signals to sound.

Commonly used piezo-electric speakers, such as those found in a cell phone, operate at low frequencies that human ears can hear.

However, lead researchers Michael Armstrong, Evan Reed and Mike Howard have revealed that they used a sound wave of about 100 million times higher frequency than what humans can hear to generate light.

"This process allows us to very accurately 'see' the highest frequency sound waves by translating them into light," Nature magazine quoted Armstrong, whose team also included collaborators from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Nitronex Corp., as saying.

The researchers predicted that high frequency acoustic waves can be detected by seeing radiation emitted when the acoustic wave passes an interface between piezoelectric materials.

Very high-frequency sound waves have wavelengths approaching the atomic-length scale.

Although detection of such waves is challenging, the researchers say that they are useful for probing materials on very small length scales.

Reed, however, says that that is not the only application.

"This technique provides a new pathway to generation of THz radiation for security, medical and other purposes. In this application, we would utilize acoustic-based technologies to generate THz," he said.

Security applications include explosives detection and medical use may include detection of skin cancer.

The Livermore method does not need any external help to detect the acoustic waves.

"Usually scientists use an external laser beam that bounces off the acoustic wave - much like radar speed detectors - to observe high frequency sound. An advantage of our technique is that it doesn't require an external laser beam - the acoustic wave itself emits light that we detect," Armstrong said.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Physics. (ANI)

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