At present, the growth of processor performance has slowed down, and new impetus is needed to drive development in the future. This new power may be chip-level photon computing, which is a light-based hardware assembly and is expected to greatly improve performance. The scientific team sponsored by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation has made great breakthroughs in the field of photonics technology recently, making photonic hardware the first time to have the performance and specifications comparable to electronic hardware.
In the next 10 years, you will see a variety of breakthroughs in optics, including the use of light to transmit information, and then let the electronic hardware process it. For example, electrical signals will be converted to light through the Electric to Optic (E-O) device, and then light will be converted to current in the Optic to Electric (O-E) device after transmission through light, which can be processed or sent to the next E-O device.
At present, the main challenge facing scientists is the power requirement. The power required to transmit light in the form of light is more than 1,000 times that of electrical signals, and there are limitations in transmission speed, because every time light is absorbed, it needs to enter the container for conversion. And the container must be fully filled and discharged before it can pass the signal, but so far, building a capacitor small enough to achieve fast forwarding is very challenging.
The scientific team has achieved leapfrogging development in the optical field, and ultimately achieved performance and power consumption requirements comparable to traditional silicon hardware. The team created an electro-optic modulator (E-O) that runs at 40 Gbps, with only 42 joules per bit, which means that it consumes an order of magnitude less power than the best experiments ever, with about half of the containers being femtofarad.
Then, they constructed an optical receiver (O-E) based on the same technology, and could operate at 10 Gbps at two orders of magnitude lower than other optical systems, with a bit of only 1.6 nanojoules. It is also the first product that does not require an amplifier (power saving) and has low capacitance in just a few megafarads.
On the basis of both, the team demonstrated the world's first O-E-O transistor, which can be used as an all-optical switch, wavelength converter and repeater. The incredible versatility makes it the first device to surpass electronic hardware at the chip level. Researchers suggest that it can be used to communicate between cores and maintain cache consistency.
The team made this breakthrough by developing a new type of photonic crystal, a synthetic insulating material that controls light, a silicon wafer with holes drilled in it. The arrangement of these holes causes light to interfere with itself if it passes through them, thus causing it to be cancelled out. If a hole is blocked, light follows the path and is aggregated into an optical absorption material, which is converted into electricity. The same system can also run backwards.