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Future computer can be termed on and off using light

By: Press Trust of India | Boston | Published on:February 26, 2014 6:05 pm

Want your computer to go faster? Add light!

Scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have developed novel devices that could usher in a new wave of
highly efficient electronics, including computers, that can be turned on and off using light.
Every second, your computer must process billions of computational steps to produce even the simplest outputs.
Imagine if every one of those steps could be made just a tiny bit more efficient, researchers said.
“It would save precious nanoseconds,” said Northeastern University Boston, assistant professor of physics Swastik Kar.  Kar and his colleague Yung Joon Jung, have developed a series of novel devices that do just that. The duo combined their expertise – Kar’s in graphene, a carbon-based material known for its strength and conductivity, and Jung’s in the mechanics of carbon nanotubes, which are nanometre-sized rolled up sheets of graphene to unearth a physical phenomenon that could usher in a new wave of highly efficient electronics.
They discovered that light-induced electrical currents rise much more sharply at the intersection of carbon nanotubes and silicon, compared to the intersection of silicon and a metal, as in traditional photo diode devices.   “That sharp rise helps us design devices that can be turned on and off using light,” Kar said. This finding has major implications for performing computations, which, in simple terms, also rely on a series of
on-off switches, researchers said.
“People believe that the best computer would be one in which the processing is done using electrical signals and the signal transfer is done by optics,” Kar said. This isn’t too surprising since light is extremely fast,
researchers said.

Kar and Jung’s devices – which are the first to integrate electronic and optical properties on a single electronic chip represent a critical breakthrough in making this dream computer a reality.
The study was published in the journal Nature Photonics.

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