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WSU physicists write with light, turn crystal into an electrical circuit

Washington State University physicists have found a way to write an electrical circuit into a crystal, opening up the possibility of transparent, three-dimensional electronics that, like an Etch A Sketch, can be erased and reconfigured. The work, to appear in the on-line journal Scientific Reports, serves as a proof of concept for a phenomenon that WSU researchers first discovered by accident four years ago. At the time, a doctoral student found a 400-fold increase in the electrical conductivity of a crystal simply by leaving it exposed to light. Matt McCluskey, a WSU professor of physics and materials science, has now used a laser to etch a line in the crystal. With electrical contacts at each end of the line, it carried a current. “It opens up a new type of electronics where you can define a circuit optically and then erase it and define a new one,” said McCluskey. “It’s exciting that it’s reconfigurable. It’s also transparent. There are certain applications where it would be neat to have a circuit that is on a window or something like that, where it actually is invisible electronics.””

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