Light source to be used in data transfer

Light source to be used in data transfer

When you search for something on Google, the query travels the Internet at a rate of hundreds of millions of miles per hour -- a speed close to the speed of light. But the computer you searched on can't work that fast, so the information actually has to slow down when it reaches your machine. But one day, that could change. New research out has provided a blueprint for creating computers that can transfer information within a computer at the speed of light. The challenge would then be to be able to process that data at a similar rate.

Stanford engineers have inched closer to developing faster and more efficient computers that use light instead of wires to carry data. Researchers have designed and built a prism-like device that can split a beam of light into different colors and bend the light at right angles. The development could eventually lead to computers that use optics, rather than electricity, to carry data. Researchers used optical link — a tiny slice of silicon etched with a pattern that resembles a bar code.


When a beam of light is shined at the link, two different wavelengths of light split off at right angles to the input, forming a T-shape. This is a big step toward creating a complete system for connecting computer components with light rather than wires. "Light can carry more data than a wire, and it takes less energy to transmit photons than electrons," said research leader Jelena Vuckovic. In previous work her team developed an algorithm that did two things: It automated the process of designing optical structures and it enabled them to create previously unimaginable, nanoscale structures to control light.

Now, she and lead author Alexander Piggott have employed that algorithm to design, build and test a link compatible with current fibre optic networks. The structure was made by etching a tiny bar code pattern into silicon that split waves of light like a prism. The effect followed the principle that speed of light changes as it passes through different materials.


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