New device to catalyse faster data processing

Friday, 30 December 2011 00:39 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Washington: A new optical device, tiny enough to fit millions on a computer chip, could catalyse faster, more powerful information processing and supercomputers.

The “passive optical diode” is made from two tiny silicon rings measuring 10 microns across, or about a 10th the width of human hair.

Unlike other optical diodes, it does not require external assistance to transmit signals and can be readily integrated into computer chips.

The diode is capable of “non-reciprocal transmission”, meaning it transmits signals in only one direction, making it capable of information processing, said Minghao Qi, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue, the journal Science reports.

“This one-way transmission is the most fundamental part of a logic circuit, so our diodes open the door to optical information processing,” said Qi, working with a team also led by Andrew Weiner, Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering, according to a statement.

Although fibre optic cables transmit staggering amounts of data across oceans and continents, information processing is slowed and the data are susceptible to cyber attack when optical signals must be translated into electronic signals for use in computers, and vice versa.

“This translation requires expensive equipment,” study co-author Jian Wang said. “What you’d rather be able to do is plug the fibre directly into computers with no translation needed, and then you get a lot of bandwidth and security.”