Einstein hypothesized that the speed of light is constant everywhere in the universe, and while that has lead to both consternation and confusion among physics professors and students alike, it has managed to create huge breakthroughs in the transmission of data over long distances through fiber optics.
That speed, however, can cause problems when the light is used for data transfer over shorter distances like within computer circuitry. Now, thanks to a newly developed microchip, scientists may have found a way to slow down light into sound waves. In turn, this may help usher in an entirely new generation of computing, as pointed out by researchers.
Like Thunder and Lightning
One advantage of a microchip that works on light instead of electricity is that there is a vast reduction in the generated heat. Cooling modern supercomputers is a daunting task and requires substantial amounts of energy in itself. Optical circuits are virtually heat free, and that makes a computing task much easier and faster. Yet light moves too fast for some computing tasks.
Moritz Merklein, a University of Sydney doctoral candidate part of the study explains that the photonic data on a chip has to be slowed down. Only it doing so can it be “processed, routed, stored and accessed”.
This new chip deals with that issue by momentarily converting the light-driven data into microscopic sound waves within the integrated circuit. The slower speed makes the data much more easy to manage.
“The information in our chip in acoustic form travels at a velocity five orders of magnitude slower than in the optical domain,” stated Dr. Birgit Stiller, part of the University of Sydney and supervisor of the project. “It is like the difference between thunder and lightning.”
The newly developed breakthrough could be the next step in achieving the optical microchip. This would be a device that could vastly increase our computing power, while still reducing electrical consumption.
Detailed study findings are available in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.
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