The future of computation is bright — literally.
Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), in collaboration with researchers at McMaster University and University of Pittsburgh, have developed a new platform for all-optical computing, meaning computations done solely with beams of light.
“Most computation right now uses hard materials such as metal wires, semiconductors and photodiodes to couple electronics to light,” said Amos Meeks, a graduate student at SEAS and co-first author of the research. “The idea behind all-optical computing is to remove those rigid components and control light with light. Imagine, for example, an entirely soft, circuitry-free robot driven by light from the sun.”
These platforms rely on so-called non-linear materials that change their refractive index in response to the intensity of light. When light is shone through these materials, the refractive index in the path of the beam increases, generating its own, light-made waveguide. Currently, most non-linear materials require high-powered lasers or are permanently changed by the transmission of light.
Here, researchers developed a fundamentally new material that uses reversible swelling and contracting in a hydrogel under low laser power to change the refractive index.
Imagine, for example, an entirely soft, circuitry-free robot driven by light from the sun.
SEAS GRADUATE STUDENT
The hydrogel is composed of a polymer network that is swollen with water, like a sponge, and a small number of light-responsive molecules known as spiropyran (which is similar to the molecule used to tint transition lenses). When light is shone through the gel, the area under the light contracts a small amount, concentrating the polymer and changing the refractive index. When the light is turned off, the gel returns to its original state.
When multiple beams are shone through the material, they interact and affect each other, even at large distances. Beam A could inhibit Beam B, Beam B could inhibit Beam A, both could cancel each other out or both could go through — creating an optical logic gate.
“Though they are separated, the beams still see each other and change as a result,” said Kalaichelvi Saravanamuttu, an associate professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at McMaster and co-senior author of the study. “We can imagine, in the long term, designing computing operations using this intelligent responsiveness.”
“Not only can we design photoresponsive materials that reversibly switch their optical, chemical and physical properties in the presence of light, but we can use those changes to create channels of light, or self-trapped beams, that can guide and manipulate light,” said co-author Derek Morim, a graduate student in Saravanamuttu’s lab.
“Materials science is changing,” said Joanna Aizenberg, the Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science at SEAS and co-senior author of the study. “Self-regulated, adaptive materials capable of optimizing their own properties in response to environment replace static, energy-inefficient, externally regulated analogs. Our reversibly responsive material that controls light at exceptionally small intensities is yet another demonstration of this promising technological revolution.”
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Clock synchronisation at serious speedon June 22, 2020 at 8:40 am
Until now, cloud providers have been able to accommodate rapid growth by relying on Moore’s Law for networking, whereby about every two years electronic switch integrated circuits double their data ...
- Best smartwatch for cycling: Wearable tech to track and view stats from your rideon June 22, 2020 at 2:15 am
The best smartwatches for cycling are power meter compatible and provide GPS tracking and workout data as well as a raft of other smartwatch features - here's our pick of the best ...
- Inside a Butterfly - Miniature Thermoelectric Coolers for Telecom Applicationson June 17, 2020 at 5:00 pm
Tunable lasers have become an industry standard for DWDM applications, providing flexible wavelength-routing capabilities and realizing the all-optical network ... The miniature thermoelectric ...
- Object-oriented programmingon June 14, 2020 at 5:00 pm
In computer science, object-oriented programming, OOP for short, is a computer programming paradigm. The idea behind object-oriented programming is that a computer program may be seen as composed ...
- Meet the startup that created its own ‘university’ to answer Asia’s AI talent shortageon May 31, 2020 at 11:12 pm
PricewaterhouseCoopers, for instance, has collaborated with the University of Birmingham to fund computer science apprenticeships, and German engineering firm Bosch co-founded an AI research lab ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- PhD Oral Exam - Jie Xu, Electrical and Computer Engineeringon June 23, 2020 at 8:35 am
This oral exam is open to the public. Photodiodes convert optical signals into electrical signals and are widely used in optical fiber communication systems, photonics generation of millimeter-wave ...
- The Louisiana Optical Network Infrastructure Trades in ‘Do-it-yourself’ Cluster Management for Bright Cluster Manageron June 17, 2020 at 9:27 am
Bright Computing announced that The Louisiana Optical Network Infrastructure (LONI), an asset owned by the Louisiana ...
- Optical Mouse Market Status - COVID to Make Big Changes in Estimateson June 16, 2020 at 11:02 am
AMA Research published a new research publication on "Global Optical Mouse Market Insights, to 2025" with 150+ pages and enriched with self-explained Tables and charts in presentable format. In the ...
- Scientists grow optical chips in a petri dishon June 16, 2020 at 9:04 am
The modern photonics industry is constantly working on making its devices more compact, be it computing systems or sensors and lidars. For this, it is necessary to make lasers, transistors and other ...
- Piezoelectric control technology aligns many optical junctions in parallelon June 16, 2020 at 7:29 am
A fully parallel gradient search simultaneously aligns multiple couplings, multiple degrees of freedom, and multiple channels, even if they interact.