The Olympic torch - on the nanoscale

As excitement builds towards the opening of the 2012 London Olympic Games on 27th July, researchers at Heriot-Watt University have created an iconic symbol of the Olympics - on the nanoscale. Peter Kremer, a research student in the Quantum Photonics Laboratory at Heriot-Watt University created a miniature Olympic torch.

A Novel nanostructure

This novel nanostructure was fabricated in the newly commissioned nanofabrication facility at Heriot-Watt, funded through a Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA) initiative. The inverted cone is 9 micrometres long and tapers down from a diameter of 1,600 nanometres at the top to 80 nanometres at the base: approximately 100,000 times smaller than the 2012 Olympic torch itself.

We aim to one day break the world record for the most efficient single photon source  

Peter Kremer, Research student at the Quantum Photonics Laboratory

'My PhD project is to fabricate and characterize such a tapered nanowire with a semiconductor quantum dot embedded near the bottom' Peter explains. 'Quantum dots are tiny regions of semiconductor that can effectively confine single electrons and exhibit quantum characteristics similar to an atom. Our design greatly enhances the collection efficiency of individual packets of light known as photons which are emitted by the quantum dot. Such single photon sources are essential for emerging applications such as quantum cryptography and computing. We aim to one day break the world record for the most efficient single photon source'.