Optical computer made from frozen light

April 12, 2005

Scientists learn to process information with 'frozen light'

Scientists at Harvard University have shown how ultra-cold atoms can be used to freeze and control light to form the "core" – or central processing unit – of an optical computer. Optical computers would transport information ten times faster than traditional electronic devices, smashing the intrinsic speed limit of silicon technology.

This new research could be a major breakthrough in the quest to create super-fast computers that use light instead of electrons to process information. Professor Lene Hau is one of the world's foremost authorities on "slow light". Her research group became famous for slowing down light, which normally travels at 186,000 miles per second, to less than the speed of a bicycle.

Using the same apparatus, which contains a cloud of ultra-cold sodium atoms, they have even managed to freeze light altogether. Professor Hau says this could have applications in memory storage for a future generation of optical computers.

But Professor Hau's most recent research addresses the issue of optical computers head-on. She has calculated that ultra-cold atoms known as Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) can be used to perform "controlled coherent processing" with light. In ordinary matter, the amplitude and phase of a light pulse would be smeared out, and any information content would be destroyed. Hau's work on slow light, however, has proved experimentally that these attributes can be preserved in a BEC. Such a device might one day become the CPU of an optical computer.

Traditional electronic computers are advancing ever closer to their theoretical limits for size and speed. Some scientists believe that optical computing will one day unleash a new revolution in smaller and faster computers.

Professor Lene Hau is Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics & Professor of Physics at Harvard University.

Website: www.deas.harvard.edu/haulab/

Explore further: Researchers develop first-of-its-kind optic isolator

Related Stories

Researchers develop first-of-its-kind optic isolator

July 13, 2018

Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have constructed a first-of-its-kind optic isolator based on resonance of light waves on a rapidly rotating glass sphere. This is the first photonic device in which ...

Photonic capsules for injectable laser resonators

July 9, 2018

A KAIST research group presented photonic capsules for injectable laser resonators using microfluidic technology. The capsule's diameter is comparable to a human hair and stable in gas and liquid media, so it is injectable ...

Switching brain circuits on and off without surgery

July 9, 2018

In the maze of our brains, there are various pathways by which neural signals travel. These pathways can go awry in patients with neurological and psychiatric diseases and disorders, such as epilepsy, Parkinson's, and obsessive-compulsive ...

Recommended for you

Traveling to the sun: Why won't Parker Solar Probe melt?

July 19, 2018

This summer, NASA's Parker Solar Probe will launch to travel closer to the Sun, deeper into the solar atmosphere, than any mission before it. If Earth was at one end of a yard-stick and the Sun on the other, Parker Solar ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kotarudon
not rated yet Oct 17, 2007
I have developed an all optical CPU which is called a black box and implemented all the data processing which will be in the light.

Data will be int he form of light throuhg out the system (BLACK BOX - ANA Systems)
Kiran

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.