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Researches Develop Novel Technique for Light-Based Computers

Researchers from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill devised a new technique that uses light instead of electricity for computing.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill achieved a breakthrough in optical computing technology by using light instead of electricity for computing. The research led by James Cahoon, professor of Chemistry at the university explored a new way to select and send light of a specific color using long silicon wires that are several hundred nanometers in diameter. The nano-scale light switch is able to turn on and off the transmissions of one color of light over very long distances. The research conducted in collaboration with Korea University was published in the journal Nature Communications on July 17, 2018.

Optical computing enables swapping of electrons for light-based technology, which in turn is expected to assist to innovate computers that do not overheat and run much faster. The researchers developed the Encoded Nanowire Growth and Appearance through VLS and Etching (ENGRAVE) technique capable of creating complex shapes in nanowires. Furthermore, precise diameter modulation with the ENGRAVE technique created selective light transmissions. The light in the nanowires was guided using Mie resonance, which is a light scattering property of nanowires. The technique is a step forward for optical computing that is expected to enable further advances in the technology. Furthermore, it can reduce the size of the optical components needed to develop computers based on light instead of on electricity. Such downsizing allows easy integration of these components with the existing electronic components in computers. Moreover, these structures can be used as a new type of sensors as the color of light conducted by the wires in this study is sensitive to the environment around it.