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Light-bending silicon strips are the key to super-fast computers

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
December 4, 2014
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No, that's not a barcode you're looking at -- instead, it's the likely future of computing. Stanford University researchers have developed an optical link that uses silicon strips to bend light at right angles, which future processors will likely need to transmit data at super-fast speeds. The key, as you might have gathered, is the series of gaps. When light hits the device, the combination of those gaps and silicon sends different wavelengths left and right. You're not limited to specific light bands or directions, either; you can use an algorithm to design the link you need within a matter of minutes.

The technology is still young, but it's designed to be compatible with existing fiber optic networks and could theoretically improve transfers on high-capacity data lines (such as internet backbones) in ways that aren't possible with conventional optics. However, that's just the start. Stanford's dream is to develop photonic computer chips that replace "slow" electrical connections with much quicker, light-based pathways. You need more than just optical links to make that happen, but they're an important piece in the puzzle. You'll know who to thank if you eventually buy a photonic PC or phone that leaves your current hardware in the dust.

[Image credit: Vuckovic Lab]

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