The world’s first ultra-fast photonic computer processor to use polarization

The world's first ultra-fast photonic computer processor to use polarization

Credit: June Sang Lee, University of Oxford

In an article published today in scientific progressOxford University researchers have developed a method that uses the polarization of light to maximize information storage density and computing performance using nanowires.

Light has an exploitable property – different wavelengths of light do not interact with each other – a feature used by fiber optics to carry parallel streams of data. Likewise, different polarizations of light also do not interact with each other. Each polarization can be used as an independent information channel, allowing more information to be stored in multiple channels, greatly increasing the information density.

First author and DPhil student June Sang Lee, Department of Materials, University of Oxford, said: “We all know that the advantage of photonics over electronics is that light is faster and more functional over wide bandwidths. So our goal was to create such advantages of photonics in combination with tunable material to realize faster and denser information processing.”






Polarization as an independent channel. Credit: June Sang Lee, Department of Materials, University of Oxford

In collaboration with Professor C. David Wright, University of Exeter, the research team developed a HAD (hybridized-active-dielectric) nanowire, using a hybrid glass-like material that exhibits switchable material properties in the illumination of optical pulses. Each nanowire exhibits selective responses to a specific polarization direction, so that information can be processed simultaneously using multiple polarizations in different directions.

Using this concept, researchers have developed the first photonic computer processor that uses polarizations of light.

Photonic computing is performed through multiple polarization channels, leading to an improvement in multi-order computing density compared to that of conventional electronic chips. The computational speeds are faster because these nanowires are modulated by nanosecond optical pulses.

Researchers develop world's first ultra-fast photonic computer processor using polarization

Hybrid nanowires that can selectively switch the devices depending on polarization. Credit: June Sang Lee, Department of Materials, University of Oxford

Since the invention of the first integrated circuit in 1958, packing more transistors into a given size of an electronic chip has been the best way to maximize computational density – so-called “Moore’s Law”. However, as artificial intelligence and machine learning require specialized hardware that is beginning to push the boundaries of established computing technology, the dominant question in this field of electronic engineering has been, “How can we pack more functionalities into a single transistor?”

For more than a decade, researchers in Professor Harish Bhaskaran’s lab in the Department of Materials at the University of Oxford have been exploring the use of light as a means of computation.

Researchers develop world's first ultra-fast photonic computer processor using polarization

Hybridized active dielectric (HAD) nanowire is polarization selectively switched and parallel photonic computing is realized. Credit: June Sang Lee, Department of Materials, University of Oxford

Professor Bhaskaran, who led the work, said: “This is just the beginning of what we would like to see in the future, which is the exploitation of all the degrees of freedom that light offers, including polarization to dramatically parallel information processing. Definitely early – stage work, but super exciting ideas that combine electronics, non-linear materials and computers. Lots of exciting prospects to work on and that’s always a great place to be.”


All-optical calculation of a group of transformations using a polarization-coded diffractive network


More information:
June Sang Lee et al, Polarization-selective reconfigurability in hybridized-active-dielectric nanowires, scientific progress (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciaadv.abn9459www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abn9459

Quote: The world’s first ultra-fast photonic computer processor using polarization (2022, June 15) retrieved June 18, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-world-ultra-fast-photonic-processor-polarization.html

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