Optical computing is not a new concept, but it’s definitely one that has its share of complications. Optical computers are devices that use photons to work, rather than the standard electrical currents. Unfortunately, photons aren’t that easy to manipulate; without mass or an electric charge, they can’t be controlled by an electric field as electrons are. This difficulty has hampered the efforts of scientists to make advances in the field of optical computing. Although it’s far faster than the traditional version, the difficulty of controlling photons has always been a major roadblock — until now.
A team of Russian and US researchers from have created a new way to maneuver photons. Their success is based on a nanoantenna, a device that allows them to bounce the photons in a specific direction. It works very much like the traditional antennas we all know, albeit on a decidedly smaller scale. But unlike its much larger counterparts, this nanoantenna has one remarkable feature: the ability to be tuned so as to move light in a variety of directions. The scientists can redirect the photons without ever altering the physical dimensions of the antenna, based on the intensity of each separate wave of light. The result is a device that can manipulate light with previously unknown ease.
This invention has huge implications for the world of optical computing. Now that scientists have worked out a way to manipulate and steer light, optical computing is being viewed as a viable technology for mass production.
The new device will allow us to change the direction of light propagation at a much better rate compared to electronic analogues.
The tiny antenna, which doesn’t exceed 200 by 200 by 500 nanometers, is built from silicon nanoparticles. Scientists are clocking the transfer of data at 240 gigbits per second — hundreds of times faster than our traditional electron-based computers. It’s an exciting development for the world of computing, and a giant step forward for proponents of optical computers.