A team from the University of Central Florida (UCF) has developed the world's first optical oscilloscope, capable of measuring the electric field of light.
An oscilloscope is an instrument that graphically displays electrical signals and shows how they change over time regarding voltage, amplitude, frequency, and other factors. This new device converts light oscillations into electrical signals, then displayed on the oscilloscope.
Light oscillates significantly faster than electric fields in current technology, which oscillates at gigahertz frequencies corresponding to the radio and microwave regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The increased frequency of light waves allows them to transmit a significantly higher density of information but has also been the source of the difficulty in reading its electric field.
Current technology measuring this can only resolve the average signal produced from a light pulse, but not its peaks and valleys. The peaks and valleys of the signal are most important, as this is where information can be stored and transferred.
"Fiber-optic communications have taken advantage of light to make things faster, but we are still functionally limited by the speed of the oscilloscope. Our optical oscilloscope may be able to increase that speed by a factor of about 10,000," says Michael Chini, a Physics Associate Professor at UCF.
You can read more from their study, published in Nature Photonics, here.