• Fan and Shi studied a device called a nonlinear isolator, which researchers had hoped would allow information from beams of light to travel in only the “forward” direction, while prohibiting transmission in the “backward” direction. Such a device would simplify data transmission on computer chips.
  • In previous works, researchers used a specific method to test whether nonlinear isolators on a chip could keep information flowing in the right direction. Based on these tests, nonlinear isolators appeared to work. But, as Fan and Shi studied the mathematics underlying nonlinear isolators, they found a problem: When the forward beam is on, the backward beam leaks through the device.
  • This finding is important for designing isolators for optical chips. Engineers will need to look elsewhere for devices that can keep optical information flowing in one direction, but not the other.

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