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Speed Metal: This Nano-discovery is a Really Big Deal

  • June 04, 2014
What's the fastest thing you can imagine? How about the smallest? Well never mind, because there really is no way to wrap your head around what's going on in David Hilton's laser lab in the UAB Department of Physics.
Equipment in the UAB laser lab. UAB researchers and colleagues have created an ultrafast, ultratiny on-off switch out of vanadium dioxide, a material that could be the future of high-tech. But before we get there, we'll probably need to answer this question: What in the world is vanadium dioxide, anyway?

What's the fastest thing you can imagine? How about the smallest?

Well never mind, because there really is no way to wrap your head around what's going on in David Hilton's laser lab in the UAB Department of Physics.

That is to say, you're about to find out what's going on, and it's amazing stuff. Hilton and one of his graduate students, Nate Brady, are hot on the trail of what might be the magic material of the 21st century: vanadium dioxide. This strange, manmade material could be the successor to silicon, paving the way to ultrafast, ultrasmall switches that will make the current information superhighway look like a slow drive down a country road.

But all this is happening so quickly that it staggers the brain.