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Squeezing Light Into a Tiny Channel Brings Optical Computing a Step Closer

A chip that uses light, rather than electronics?

Imperial College London researchers have forced light to go through a smaller gap on a chip than previously possible.

Credit: Imperial College London

Researchers at Imperial College London in the U.K. have paved the way for computers based on light rather than electronics by forcing light to go through a smaller gap than previously possible, reducing the distance over which light can interact by 10,000-fold.

Light used for processing on microchips previously was made to interact using particular materials, but only over relatively long distances.

The researchers say this breakthrough means what previously would have taken centimeters to accomplish can now be realized on the micrometer scale, bringing optical processing into the range of electrical transistors.

"Because light does not easily interact with itself, information sent using light must be converted into an electronic signal, and then back into light," says Imperial College London's Michael Nielsen. "Our technology allows processing to be achieved purely with light."

The researchers achieved this by using a metal channel to focus the light inside a polymer previously used in solar panels.

From Imperial College London
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