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One of the largest bandwidth bottlenecks on the Internet occurs in the modulators and switches that translate the electrons used by computers into the photons that speed data through long-distance fiber-optic “backbone” lines. University of Washington, Seattle chemist Larry Dalton has found a way to accelerate this translation process with a new polymer. Modulators made from the polymer draw very little electrical power, are easy to integrate into electronic devices, and could improve communications speed tenfold. A new subsidiary of Microvision, called Lumera, owns an exclusive worldwide license on the polymer technology from the University of Washington; the Bothell, WA, outfit hopes to market polymer-based telecommunications devices in one to two years.

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