Scientific Earth Conscientious

Scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if man's power is increased, the checks that restrain him from abusing it must be strengthened (Madame de Stael)

Posts Tagged ‘Use light instead of electricity to carry information in computer circuits’

Use light instead of electricity to carry information in computer circuits, potentially leading to vast improvements in efficiency

Posted by Scientific Earth Conscientious on October 23, 2013

False-color scanning electron microscope image, the arrow shows the path light takes as it hops between silicon rings along the edge of the chip, successfully avoiding defects -- in this case a missing ring. Credit: NIST

False-color scanning electron microscope image, the arrow shows the path light takes as it hops between silicon rings along the edge of the chip, successfully avoiding defects — in this case a missing ring.
Credit: NIST

Scientists have a new way to edge around a difficult problem in quantum physics, now that a research team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and University of Maryland’s Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) have proved* their recent theory about how particles of light flow within a novel device they built.

While the problem itself—how to find an easier way to study the quantum Hall effect—may be unfamiliar to many, the team’s solution could help computer designers use light instead of electricity to carry information in computer circuits, potentially leading to vast improvements in efficiency.

The quantum Hall effect is observed when there is a magnetic field perpendicular to a flat wire that has electrons flowing through it. The field pushes the electrons over to one side of the wire, so their flow is concentrated along its edge. Although a fairly exotic piece of physics, the quantum Hall effect already has been applied to make better standards for electrical conductance. But the effect is hard to study because measuring it requires stringent lab conditions, including extremely low temperatures and samples of exceptional purity.

The team looked for a way around these issues, and in 2011 they found** a potential, albeit theoretical, answer: Build a model system in which particles of light behave exactly like electrons do when subjected to the quantum Hall effect, and study that system instead.

“We knew building an analogous system that uses photons would have additional advantages,” says NIST physicist Mohammad Hafezi. “Light can carry much more information than electricity, so working with a photon-based system also could help us design computer components that use light.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in RESEARCH / ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »