New Light-Powered Computer Could Soon Replace Traditional Electric Chip Designs

Published on December 11, 2022

An information-processing machine that employs light rather than electricity to transmit and process data might function quicker and more efficiently.


Light-based computers could perform calculations faster, using less energy and taking up less space, thanks to a new type of computer.

A computer chip contains millions or billions of logic gates, which are the smallest components that perform the simplest tasks, such as comparing one bit of data with another. Combining these gates in huge numbers allows for tasks like downloading a file, playing a video, or running a computer game to be managed.

Using light instead of electrons, researchers at Aalto University, Finland, have created optical logic gates that perform the same functions as traditional chips.

Optical computers have been invented before, but they relied on sophisticated hardware and were restricted to certain jobs. Zhang believes that these new gates can be manufactured from a single layer of molybdenum disulfide crystals just 0.65 nanometers thick using current manufacturing processes and that they could be designed to perform a wide range of duties in a compact package.

Because photons move without resistance, they could perform calculations more efficiently, and because electrons move slower than photons in a circuit, they could also do so using less energy.

A huge optical computer is being constructed and might outpace quantum computers

A light wave that appears to rotate around its axis of propagation, turning either clockwise or counterclockwise, is used by the group. A traditional bit in a computer is comprised of either a positive or a negative electrical charge, which is represented as 0 or 1, but optical computers utilize clockwise-polarised or anticlockwise-polarised light to represent bits.

An optical computer uses crystalline materials to construct logic gates that are sensitive to the direction of polarised light beams. These gates can be recreated using optical filters and other components.

Working optical gates have been demonstrated that recreates the traditional XNOR, NOR, AND, XOR, OR, and NAND gates, all of which function differently on data. In addition, the researchers proved that these procedures can be processed in parallel rather than in series, which might lead to significant improvements in efficiency and speed.

Zhang hopes that all-optical computers can be developed in the future. Since light chips are much faster than traditional ones, the biggest advantage of all-optical computers is their speed. In addition, light is able to process information in parallel and has little energy consumption, whereas electronic devices consume more energy because of their resistance.”

In the future, Zhang plans to investigate how optical logic gates could be used to create either hybrid classical and quantum computers or optical quantum logic gates. This is because one common branch of quantum computing research already uses photons to transmit data.

Featured image: Yi Zhang with the optical computer/Yi Wang

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