Washington: Stanford engineers have inched closer to developing faster and more efficient computers that use light instead of wires to carry data. Researchers have designed and built a prism-like device that can split a beam of light into different colours and bend the light at right angles.
The development could eventually lead to computers that use optics, rather than electricity, to carry data. Researchers used optical link — a tiny slice of silicon etched with a pattern that resembles a bar code.
When a beam of light is shined at the link, two different wavelengths of light split off at right angles to the input, forming a T-shape. This is a big step toward creating a complete system for connecting computer components with light rather than wires.
"Light can carry more data than a wire, and it takes less energy to transmit photons than electrons," said research leader Jelena Vuckovic. In previous work her team developed an algorithm that did two things: It automated the process of designing optical structures and it enabled them to create previously unimaginable, nanoscale structures to control light. Now, she and lead author Alexander Piggott have employed that algorithm to design, build and test a link compatible with current fibre optic networks.
The structure was made by etching a tiny bar code pattern into silicon that split waves of light like a prism. The effect followed the principle that speed of light changes as it passes through different materials.