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Optical Computing

Electronics

World's smallest optical switch uses a single atom

The rapid and on-going development of micro-miniature optical electronic devices is helping to usher in a new era of photonic computers and light-based memories that promise super-fast processor speeds and ultra-secure communications. However, as these components are shrunk ever further, fundamental limits to their dimensions are dictated by the wavelength of light itself. Now researchers at ETH Zurich claim to have overcome this limitation by creating both the world's smallest optical switch using a single atom, and accompanying circuitry that appears to break the rules by being smaller than the wavelength of the light that passes through it.Read More

Computers

All-optical permanent on-chip memory paves the way for faster, more efficient computers

A new non-volatile optical memory has been created by researchers working at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the universities of Münster, Oxford, and Exeter. Utilizing innovative phase-change materials to store information, the new device promises to significantly improve processing speeds by effectively eliminating the existing bottleneck of having to convert optical signals into electrical signals for storage and then back again for transmission.Read More

Physics

World's smallest beamsplitter paves way toward computing at the speed of light

Silicon photonics is an emerging technology that incorporates electronic circuits using photons of laser light rather than electrons to transmit, receive, and manipulate information. As such, a silicon photonic CPU could potentially process information at the speed of light – millions of times faster than computers available today. In a step towards this goal, engineers working at the University of Utah have developed an ultra-compact photonic beam-splitter so small that millions of these devices could fit on a single silicon chip.Read More

Science

Fabricated nanoantennas used to produce high-resolution holograms

Holography is one of the more dramatic forms of photography, in which a three-dimensional image is stored on a photographic plate in the form of interference fringes. Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana have developed a different approach, in which a 3D image is stored in a structure of thousands of V-shaped nanoantennas etched into an ultrathin gold foil. The new approach dramatically shrinks the size of a hologram, potentially enabling photonic and plasmonic devices and optical switches small enough to be integrated into computer chips.Read More

Optical computing gets a lift on butterfly wings

A team of international researchers has developed artificial crystals with unique optical properties that could lead to advances in quantum computing and telecommunications. Their inspiration? The glorious green wings of the Callophyrs Rubi butterfly. Read More

Science

One + one = zero: coupled lasers turn each other off

High hopes have been maintained for decades concerning optical logic, optical switching matrices (e.g. for communications), and optical computing. The missing link in actualizing this promise is a practical circuit element that allows one light to be turned on or off purely by application of another light to the device - rather like voltage on the control gate of a field effect transistor. This missing link has now been developed through a novel application of the complex behavior exhibited by coupled lasers. Read More

Electronics

IBM unveils one trillion bit-per-second optical chip

Last Thursday at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference in Los Angeles, a team from IBM presented research on their wonderfully-named “Holey Optochip.” The prototype chipset is the first parallel optical transceiver that is able to transfer one trillion bits (or one terabit) of information per second. To put that in perspective, IBM states that 500 high-def movies could be downloaded in one second at that speed, while the entire U.S. Library of Congress web archive could be downloaded in an hour. Stated another way, the Optochip is eight times faster than any other parallel optical components currently available, with a speed that’s equivalent to the bandwidth consumed by 100,000 users, if they were using regular 10 Mb/s high-speed internet.Read More

Science

New diode promises to uncork optical computing bottleneck

When it comes to speed, photons leave electrons for dead and have a higher bandwidth, which means optical computers will be much faster than their current electron-based cousins. While optical diodes for use in optical information processing systems already exist, these require external assistance to transmit signals so cannot be readily integrated into computer chips. Now researchers at Purdue University have developed a “passive optical diode” that not only doesn’t require any outside help to transmit signals, but is also so small that millions would fit on a computer chip, potentially leading to faster, more powerful information processing and supercomputers.Read More

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