A NEWLY developed ultra-thin device that can change the colour of light and turn invisible light into visible light has been developed by Australian researchers in a breakthrough that promises internet boosting applications.

Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) behind the invention, say it could one day be used to help turbo-charge internet speeds around the world.

The device is a new type of nonlinear photonic crystal, as thin as a human hair, and represents a major advance in the field.

Photonic crystals are essentially an analog of semiconductors for light waves, and are materials which provide novel and unique ways to control many aspects of electromagnetic radiation.

Co-researcher Dr Yan Sheng, from ANU, said the research team conducted numerous experiments by using ultra short laser pulses to change the internal structure of a nonlinear crystal.

“The outcome is that we invented a powerful device that can change the colour of light,” she told news.com.au. “To change the colour of light is equivalent to changing the frequency of light which is vital in optical technology that has many applications.”

Dr Sheng said the device they developed was made from “artificial material, not a uniform crystal”.

When it comes to things like laser technology and high-speed fibre internet, the ability to manipulate light is paramount.

“This could be very useful for the optical fibre internet,” Dr Sheng said. “It’s light carrying the information, so variously we need to manipulate this light and changing the frequency is very important.”

One of the lead researchers from ANU Professor Wieslaw Krolikowski said: “This is the first time these feats have been achieved by scientists.”

As part of their work, the researchers also found a way to manipulate light in a third dimension.

“Scientists had previously been restricted to one- or two-dimensional structures in nonlinear photonic crystals, which had limited scope to change light, but we found an innovative way to modify them in three dimensions to unlock exciting new capabilities,” Prof Krolikowski said in a statement.

Speaking to news.com.au, Dr Sheng said the 3D nature of the device introduced an “additional degree of freedom” when manipulating light, asserting that “the power of data processing is hugley enhanced”.

“We are very happy that this research result was published in the leading journal Nature Photonics,” she added.

While the potential applications are vast, the research remains in the very early stages. For the next step, Dr Sheng said the team will try to produce a device as long as possible.

If they’re able to produce a much longer device, the possibility for such technology to be integrated in fibre optic networks and other manufactured devices will become closer to reality.