Laser Circuit Could Make Computers 1,000 Times Faster
In trying to build faster computers for the future, some researchers are looking to the speed of light. A team of engineers have built a small, simple circuit with five lasers, Chemical & Engineering News reported. It's a step toward computers that would perform calculations based on the movement of light, instead of electrons in a silicon chip.
Light-based computers would be more energy efficient and at least 1,000 times faster than computers today, according to C&EN. Because of the physical properties of light, however, the laser circuits researchers have made are too large for today's devices. Now, a team of scientists in Berkeley, Calif., has found a way to make smaller circuits by making light travel not as the usual photons, but as plasmons.
In the new circuit, light from a laser travels along the surface of a material in waves. The plasmons created by this process are able to travel in a narrower beam without losing their strength, as would photons, the usual particle of light.
The Berkeley scientists also built the circuit so that they are able to control how intense the plasmon beam is. Two different intensities of beams could be used to represent the 0s and 1s of binary computing, C&EN reported.
This is the first time anyone has been able to control the intensity of a plasmon beam, Chih-Kang Shih, a physicist at the University of Texas at Austin who was not involved in the Berkeley research, told C&EN. Next, the plasmon team should ensure they are able to switch intensities quickly and make an even smaller circuit, Shih said.
The Berkeley-based scientists, including materials scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, published a paper about their work Sept. 18 in the journal Nano Letters.
Source: Chemical & Engineering News