Breaking News: Light Has Been Stored as Sound For The First Time

Welcome to the first proper post here on the website. I have decided to change things up a bit; get original. As most readers already know, EverythingScience originated from a Telegram channel. That channel will remain on Telegram and will continue to post daily science news. However, the website will only post original content written by us. This will usually be once a week (this is subject to change), but will be about the most interesting or most signifcant science news or breakthroughs of the week. Moving on, let’s begin quite the extraordinary article about the future of computing.

In a huge breakthrough, scientists have managed to store light-based information, in the form of photons, as sound waves. This is a major step towards light-based computers. Currently, our computers process all data in the form of electrons. This means they’re quite inefficient, and, they produce a lot of heat. Using photons (light) for data transfer is already a widely used technology used in optical fiber cables. 

Optical Fiber cables widely used today.

These are used in optical-fiber communications for telephone signals, internet communication and cable television. We can encode data into photons already, but it has to be decoded back into electrons to be processed. Light is simply too fast for modern hardware to process it. Light-based computers would have to the potential to run at least 20 times faster than your laptop and at the same time, won’t produce heat or be extremely power hungry. This would have a great effect on the consumer computer markets and fairly new types of computers such as wearables, which at the moment are limited by power and battery life.

Researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia have finally managed to convert data into acoustic form. That means the information “travels at a velocity five orders of magnitude slower than in the optical domain,” said project supervisor Birgit Stiller.

“It’s like the difference between thunder and lightning.”

 

Below is an animation displaying how the data is transferred between light and sound:

Normally, the light would pass through the chip in 3 nano seconds. When the data is stored as sound waves, that time can be extended for up to 10 nanoseconds. This allows the data to be delivered by light, at extremely high speeds, without the heat caused by resistance but also allows the data to be slowed down allowing the processors to do something useful with it.

“For [light-based computers] to become a commercial reality, photonic data on the chip needs to be slowed down so that they can be processed, routed, stored and accessed,” said one of the research team, Moritz Merklein.

 

“This is an important step forward in the field of optical information processing as this concept fulfils all requirements for current and future generation optical communication systems,” added team member Benjamin Eggleton.

The research has been published in Nature

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