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Nanotechnology Now – Press Release: Optical switching at record speed opens the door to ultra-fast light-based electronics and computers:

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Home > Press > Optical switching at record speed opens the door to light-based ultrafast electronics and computers:

University of Arizona Assistant Professor of Physics and Optical Sciences Mohammed Hassan CREDIT Courtesy of M. Hassan/University of Arizona
University of Arizona Assistant Professor of Physics and Optical Sciences Mohammed Hassan CREDIT Courtesy of M. Hassan/University of Arizona

Abstract:
Imagine a home computer that runs 1 million times faster than the most expensive piece of hardware on the market. Now, imagine that level of computing power as an industry standard. University of Arizona researchers hope to pave the way for that reality using light-based optical computing, a marked improvement over the semiconductor-based transistors currently running the world.

Optical switching at record speed opens the door to ultrafast light-based electronics and computers:

Tucson, AZ | Posted on March 24, 2023

“Semiconductor-based transistors are in all the electronics we use today,” said Mohammed Hassan, assistant professor of physics and optical sciences. “They are part of every industry – from children’s toys to rockets – and are the main building blocks of electronics.”

Hassan formed an international research team that published the research article “Ultrafast optical switching and data encoding on synthesized light fields” in Science Advances in February. UArizona physics postdoctoral research fellow Dandan Hui and physics graduate student Husain Alqattan also contributed to the article, in addition to researchers from Ohio State University and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

Semiconductors in electronics rely on electrical signals transmitted via microwaves to turn on or prevent the flow of electricity and data, which are represented as “on” or “off”. Hassan said the future of electronics will be based on the use of laser beams to control electrical signals, opening the door for the formation of “optical transistors” and the development of ultra-fast optical electronics.

Since the invention of the semiconductor transistor in the 1940s, technological advances have centered on increasing the speed at which electrical signals can be generated – measured in hertz. According to Hassan, the world’s fastest semiconductor transistor can operate at speeds of more than 800 gigahertz. Data transfer at these frequencies is measured on a scale of picoseconds, or trillionths of a second.

Computer processing power has steadily increased since the introduction of the semiconductor transistor, although Hassan said one of the main concerns in developing faster technologies was that the heat generated by continuously adding transistors to the microchip would eventually require more energy to cool than it could pass through. chips.

In their article, Hassan and his collaborators discuss the use of optically turning on and off all light signals to achieve data transfer rates in excess of one petahertz, as measured on an attosecond time scale. Attosecond is one trillionth of a second, meaning data transfer is 1 million times faster than the fastest semiconductor transistors.

While optical switches have been shown to achieve faster information processing speeds than semiconductor transistor-based technologies, Hassan and his co-authors were able to register on and off signals from light sources that occur on a scale of one billionth of a second. This is achieved by exploiting the characteristics of fused silica, a glass often used in optics. Fused silica can instantly change its reflectivity, and by using an ultrafast laser, Hassan and his team were able to register changes in the light signal on an attosecond time scale. The work also demonstrates the possibility of transmitting data in the form of “ones” and “zeroes” representing on and off through light at previously impossible speeds.

“This new advancement will also enable encoding of data on ultrafast laser pulses, which will increase data transfer rates and can be used in long-distance communications from Earth to outer space,” said Hassan. “It holds promise for increasing the speed of data processing and encoding of information that limits it and opens up a new world of information technology.”

The project was funded by a $1.4 million grant given to Hassan in 2018 by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, an organization that aims “to create positive outcomes for future generations” by supporting scientific discovery research, environmental conservation, and patient care. The article is also based on work supported by the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research’s Young Investigator Research Program.

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Contact:
Media Contact

Daniel Stolt
University of Arizona

Office: 520-626-4402
Expert Contact

Muhammad Hassan
Department of Physics, University of Arizona

Copyright © University of Arizona

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