Researchers Closer To Using Light Instead of Wires In Computers

Stanford engineers have designed and built a prism-like silicon device that can split a beam of light into different colors and bend the light at right angles a development that could eventually lead to computers that use nanophotonics to transmit data faster and more efficiently than electricity.

"Light can carry more data than a wire, and it takes less energy to transmit photons than electrons," Vuckovic said in a press release.

Her team developed an algorithm that automated the process of designing optical structures and enabled the researchers to create  nanoscale structures previously unimaginable, to control light.

Vuckovic and lead author Alexander Piggott, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering, have employed that algorithm to design, build, and test an optical-link device that is compatible with current fiber optic networks.

"We wanted to be able to let the software design the structure of a particular size given only the desired inputs and outputs for the device," Vuckovic explained. "For many years, nanophotonics researchers made structures using simple geometries and regular shapes. The structures you see produced by this algorithm are nothing like what anyone has done before.

"There's no way to analytically design these kinds of devices," lead author Alexander Piggott added, speaking to the superlative advantage the algorithm brings.