NIST-led team develops tiny low-energy device to switch light in optical chips

Compact switch is first to operate at voltages low enough to be integrated in silicon chips; redirects light with very low signal loss.

Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and colleagues have developed an optical switch that routes light from one computer chip to another in just 20 billionths of a second — faster than any other similar device, they claim. The compact switch is the first to operate at voltages low enough to be integrated onto low-cost silicon chips and redirects light with very low signal loss.

NIST comments that the switch’s performance represents “a major new step toward building a computer that uses light instead of electricity to process information.”

Relying on photons to transport data within a computer offers several advantages over electronic communications: photons travel faster than electrons and don’t waste energy by heating up the computer components. Direct switching also removes the need for on-chip optical fiber links, which occupy too much room to be useful for carrying data across a computer chip.

Source: https://optics.org/

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