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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Optical computing and the future



Light speed is really fast. Why doesn't someone make a computer driven by light? We have fiber optic cables to transfer data, and they make for cool Christmas trees too!  It would seem that the stuff in a computer is data. If you watch Star Trek their ships are entirely light based.  They are always working with  pieces of glass in engineering.  And Star Trek is a pretty good crystal ball for future devices(automatic sliding doors, talking to computers, tricorders, energy based weapons, touch screens, tablets, the iphone design, Halo weapon design, etc.). So, what is the hold up? Lets look at the benefits and problems of going optical and see what the future has in store.


Benefits
Higher bandwidth - You may hear of your local broadband internet provider saying that they upgraded to fiber rich connections.  They do that so they can increase their bandwidth. What is bandwidth? It allows you to download stuff faster. Need a further explanation? Leave a comment on the Facebook page or G+ .
Quantum Computing - Scientist have recently developed models of crystals capable of quantum computing.  The only problem is they have not built them. But they work in theory using light!  (S)
Power Consumption - Optical transmission has less of a thermal build up than electrical transmission. It means the energy put into creating the signal stays as the signal and does not get lost as heat.  Also, the energy required to transmit large amounts of data over long distances is greatly reduced by using an optical means.


Problems
Conversion - An issue for current electrical systems is that there would be a huge bottleneck converting the electrical signal back and forth to optical.  Think of it this way.  If each piece of data had to stop and pay a toll of .57 cents in exact change before transitioning from light to electron or electron to light, then that lane would move much more slowly than a normal highway.  A completely optical computer would be the smartest way to go about it.


Semiconductors - The tech world is in a debate whether optical or semiconductors would be a better fit for future applications. If you ask me, the decision has already been made. Watch Star Trek.  Those ships are all optical.  Semiconductors are amazing, but they need to be cooled.  


Future
Nature and oddly enough butterflies have helped unlock a lot of today's visual tech.  A lot of the screens in your TV or phones were developed from studying characteristics of butterflies. There is even low power screen technology emerging that was developed from butterflies. Why am I talking about butterflies so much?
The common theme here is the butterfly wings ability to reflect light.  There has been yet another breakthrough from butterflies dealing with optical properties. This one goes beyond the screen and affects our main subject of optical computing and, more importantly, quantum optical computing on the nanite level.  It is fascinating stuff, butterflies with naturally occurring nanostructures on their wings!  (S)


The possibilities with optical computing are phenomenal. The quantum based nanite tech that is just now being discovered opens up some amazing possibilities.  More computing power will help solve problems in all sorts of fields.  I guess the question should be made when will someone make a home optical nanite quantum computer.
I hope you liked reading this article.  How do you envision the future of optical computing?


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