Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Computing at the Speed of Light

22.05.2015

Utah engineers take big step toward much faster computers

University of Utah engineers have taken a step forward in creating the next generation of computers and mobile devices capable of speeds millions of times faster than current machines.


Dan Hixson/University of Utah College of Engineering

The overhead view of a new beamsplitter for silicon photonics chips that is the size of one-fiftieth the width of a human hair. University of Utah Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Rajesh Menon is leading a team that has created the world’s smallest beamsplitter for silicon photonic chips. The discovery will lead to computers and mobile devices that could be millions of times faster than machines today because the information or data that is computed or shuttled is done through light instead of electrons.

The Utah engineers have developed an ultracompact beamsplitter — the smallest on record — for dividing light waves into two separate channels of information. The device brings researchers closer to producing silicon photonic chips that compute and shuttle data with light instead of electrons. Electrical and computer engineering associate professor Rajesh Menon and colleagues describe their invention today in the journal Nature Photonics.

Silicon photonics could significantly increase the power and speed of machines such as supercomputers, data center servers and the specialized computers that direct autonomous cars and drones with collision detection. Eventually, the technology could reach home computers and mobile devices and improve applications from gaming to video streaming.

“Light is the fastest thing you can use to transmit information,” says Menon. “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.”

Photons of light carry information over the Internet through fiber-optic networks. But once a data stream reaches a home or office destination, the photons of light must be converted to electrons before a router or computer can handle the information. That bottleneck could be eliminated if the data stream remained as light within computer processors.

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

To help do that, the U engineers created a much smaller form of a polarization beamsplitter (which looks somewhat like a barcode) on top of a silicon chip that can split guided incoming light into its two components. Before, such a beamsplitter was over 100 by 100 microns. Thanks to a new algorithm for designing the splitter, Menon’s team has shrunk it to 2.4 by 2.4 microns, or one-fiftieth the width of a human hair and close to the limit of what is physically possible.

The beamsplitter would be just one of a multitude of passive devices placed on a silicon chip to direct light waves in different ways. By shrinking them down in size, researchers will be able to cram millions of these devices on a single chip.

Potential advantages go beyond processing speed. The Utah team’s design would be cheap to produce because it uses existing fabrication techniques for creating silicon chips. And because photonic chips shuttle photons instead of electrons, mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets built with this technology would consume less power, have longer battery life and generate less heat than existing mobile devices.

The first supercomputers using silicon photonics — already under development at companies such as Intel and IBM — will use hybrid processors that remain partly electronic. Menon believes his beamsplitter could be used in those computers in about three years. Data centers that require faster connections between computers also could implement the technology soon, he says.

Co-authors on the paper include research associate Randy Polson and doctoral students Bing Shen and Peng Wang.

Menon research group website: lons.utah.edu

This news release and photos may be downloaded from unews.utah.edu.

University of Utah College of Engineering
72 S. Central Campus Dr., Room 1650 WEB, Salt Lake City, UT 84112
801-581-6911 fax: 801-581-8692
www.coe.utah.edu
 

Rajesh Menon | newswise

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Drones that drive
27.06.2017 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CSAIL

nachricht Ahead of the Curve
27.06.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>