According to science fiction, in the future, our technology tools would run “at the speed of light”, but, is it possible?
But first what are the electronics?
It is the science of controlling electrical energy electrically, in which the electrons have a fundamental role. Electronics deals with electrical circuits that involve active electrical components (such as vacuum tubes, transistors, diodes, integrated circuits, optoelectronics, and sensors), associated passive electrical components, and interconnection technologies. Commonly, electronic devices contain circuitry consisting primarily or exclusively of active semiconductors supplemented with passive elements; such a circuit is described as an electronic circuit.
The nonlinear behavior of active components and their ability to control electron flows makes the amplification of weak signals possible.
Electronics is widely used in information processing, telecommunication, and signal processing. The ability of electronic devices to act as switches makes digital information processing possible. Interconnection technologies such as circuit boards. Electronics packaging technology, and other varied forms of communication infrastructure complete circuit functionality and transform the mixed components into a regular working system.
Then, the electronics make use of the electron to send and receive information along an electric circuit.
Nice… But what is the photonics?
This is the dream of all people who know about electronics. It’s a basic idea, it’s about using photons (light) instead of electrons.
It seems a simple idea at first glance, no? But the fact is that it is a revolutionary idea, which marks a now and a later in the informatics. The photon can send, receive, save, load, drop and transport information most fast and better than the electrons( At the speed of light!!!). This makes our computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, game consoles, televisions, and all electronic devices work, at a speed that we can not imagine. Very fast, so much so, that currently there aren´t processors that can process the information at such speed. This represents a complete revolution, the technological revolution. This can change our lives at all levels. Just imagine the global speed in terms of information traffic, and now that information could be transmitted, sent, received, stored, loaded and much more, instantly!
This miracle is not far away, even is most close to you think
Engineers at the University of Utah have developed an ultra-compact beam splitter. The smallest registered, to split light waves into two separate channels of information. The device takes researchers closer to the production of photonic silicon chips that calculate and transport data with light instead of electrons. Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Rajesh Menon and his colleagues, describe their invention this May 18 in the journal Nature Photonics. Silicon photonics could significantly increase the power and speed of machines such as supercomputers. Datacenter servers and specialized equipment for autonomous cars. Over time, the technology could reach personal computers and mobile devices and improve gaming applications through streaming video. “Light is the fastest thing that can be used to transmit information”. Says Menon in a statement”.
Difficulties of this technology
Currently, it exists problematic. Photons of light carry information over the Internet, through fiber-optic networks. But once a data flow reaches a destination in the home or office, light photons must be converted to electrons before a router or computer can handle the information. In that conversion, a break occurs. The idea is to do everything with light. That bottleneck effect could be eliminated if the data flow is kept in the form of light within the computer processors.
“With the whole process in the form of light, computing can be millions of times faster”. Says Menon.
To help do that, Utah engineers create a much smaller form of the polarization beam splitter (which looks like a bar code). On top of a silicon chip that can split the incoming guided light into its two components.
Previously, a beam splitter had a size of more than 100 per 100 microns. Thanks to a new algorithm to design the divider, Menon’s team has reduced it to 2.4 by 2.4 microns, or a fifth the thickness of a human hair and close to the limit of what is physically possible!
Advantages of using these processors
The beam splitter would be just one of a multitude of passive devices placed on a silicon chip to direct light waves in different ways. By reducing the size, researchers can put millions of these devices on a single chip.
The potential advantages go beyond the processing speed. The design of the Utah equipment would be cheap to produce. Since it uses existing manufacturing techniques for the creation of silicon chips.
Also, mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets built with this technology would consume less energy, and the battery would last longer.
Benefits in computing
For years there are companies (such as IBM or Intel) focused on this future market that promises spectacular and unprecedented performance. The Optalysys company is one of them. Its objective is to present very soon a prototype of an ex-scan computer. That is, a machine capable of reaching the Exaflops, or what is the same. Operate 50 times faster than the Tianhe-2 supercomputer, (developed by the National University of Technology of Defense of China and the Chinese company Inspur with a cost of around 228 million euros). And that holds the record of being the fastest in the world.
What would be the most outstanding features of this next computer? First of all, we continue talking about very reduced energy consumption. If we had to compare the energy expenditure of a supercomputer like Tianhe-2. With a performance of 33.86 petaflops to the Optalysys computer. The result would be the following: Tianhe-2 consumes about 19 million euros a year and the newcomer just it would reach 3,200 euros a year. The numbers talk for themselves.
A promising future
Although we still have some years left to walk on the path of photonics. We can already dream of a faster future, marked by greater speed and power in machines, whether autonomous vehicles, satellites or supercomputers. With a revolution in our devices, as well as, for example, in the capacity of a market that does not stop evolving, such as streaming video games on online, audiovisual content in general.