This video is brought to you by BitMerge This is Curtis and Matthew, bringing you this
week’s tech story, light-based processors. In an article published in the journal Nature,
researchers at three universities reported on their newly-developed microprocessor that
transfers data using photons of light instead of electronic circuits. Traditional circuits
are limited, requiring more electricity to accommodate the needs of data transfer volume
and speed. Light-based processors tackle those challenges.
The processor is an example of photonic, or optical computing, a burgeoning field that
doesn’t currently find widespread practical application. In networking, photonics finds
its way into fiber-optic cabling systems, or systems that use light to transmit data
over long distances. In computing, photonics can be found in both input/output and quantum
information handling. Photonics may be a part of these systems, but the computational side
of things is still done electronically. The chip’s innovation offers new possibilities
in how information is transmitted between components.
Photonic computing is nothing new, but the researchers have claimed that the ideas behind
it can be applied in practice to computer processing. This particular processor is able
to transfer data at higher speeds with lower energy than traditional processor chips, achieving
a speed about 10 to 50 times faster at 300 gigabits per second per square millimeter.
The processor developed by this group of researchers is an electronic-photonic processor, using
the traditional electronic circuitry of standard processors, but incorporating optical input/output
components. In the future, we may see a large-scale shift
from electronic to photonic logic. Photonic logic leaves room for a world of computational
possibilities similar to that of electron-based quantum computing. For now, photonic computation
isn’t as practical as it could be, but it certainly makes a great leap in data transmission
between computer components. Miloš Popović (Milosh Popo-vich) an assistant professor
at the “University of Colorado Boulder’s” department of “Electrical, Computer, and
Energy Engineering” states, “[l]ight based integrated circuits could lead to radical
changes in computing and network chip architecture in applications ranging from smartphones to
supercomputers to large data centers, something computer architects have already begun work
on in anticipation of the arrival of this technology.”
In fact, some of the research from this group included prospects for integration into the
current market. The chip interfaces with memory [link to memory video] using optical connections
and the chip itself is just 3 millimeters by 6 millimeters in size and incorporates
70 million transistors, but most notably, the combination of standard electronic circuitry
and 850 optical input/output components should make introduction of the new chip design into
current markets possible with minimal disruption Today’s computers are already equipped to
handle the electronic circuitry. Thanks for plugging in. Your thoughts mean
a lot to us – let us know what you liked, what we missed, and what you want to see next
– and we’ll see you back here soon.

Light-Based Processors
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