Researchers make light-speed computing breakthrough

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20 May 2015 | 0

Researchers at the University of Utah are touting an engineering breakthrough that they say could have supercomputers working at the speed of light within three years and other computers, including mobile devices, doing the same sometime after that.

The University’s Menon Research Group, led by Associate Professor Rajesh Menon, specialises in the intersection of nanotechnology and optics, and has a good track record of commercialising its work.

Its latest creation, an ultra-compact beam-splitter on top of a silicon chip that divvies up light waves into separate channels, is designed to enable networks and computers to transmit data using light instead of electrons.

“Light is the fastest thing you can use to transmit information,” said Menon, in a statement. “But that information has to be converted to electrons when it comes into your laptop. In that conversion, you’re slowing things down. The vision is to do everything in light.”

“With all light, computing can eventually be millions of times faster.”

The technology could also make it so that devices, such as smartphones, burn less energy and stay powered up longer.

The paper, by Bing Shen, Peng Wang, Randy Polson and Menon, can be read at the Nature Photonics journal.

Optical networking and computing has the attention of academia and commercial vendors. More advances were shown recently at the annual OFC event in Anaheim. And vendors such as Intel are using light pulses to speed supercomputing.



Bob Brown, IDG News Service

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