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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Computing With Light Is Now Closer To Reality.

November 25, 2011 | There has been enormous progress in recent years toward the development of photonic chips — devices that use light beams instead of electrons to carry out their computational tasks. Now, researchers at MIT have filled in a crucial piece of the puzzle that could enable the creation of photonic chips on the standard silicon material that forms the basis for most of today’s electronics.

In many of today’s communication systems, data travels via light beams transmitted through optical fibers. Once the optical signal arrives at its destination, it is converted to electronic form, processed through electronic circuits and then converted back to light using a laser. The new device could eliminate those extra electronic-conversion steps, allowing the light signal to be processed directly.



The new component is a “diode for light,” says Caroline Ross, the Toyota Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, who is co-author of a paper reporting the new device that was published online Nov. 13 in the journal Nature Photonics. It is analogous to an electronic diode, a device that allows an electric current to flow in one direction but blocks it from going the other way; in this case, it creates a one-way street for light, rather than electricity.

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