With inventions like the iPhone and iPad, we literally have the world at our fingertips. Technology is more advanced and faster than ever, with a lot of thanks to Apple products. Just when we think the minds behind our devices are at the top of their game, researchers at Purdue University have just created a device millions of times smaller than a computer chip, which may lead to even faster information processing.
This device, called the “passive optical diode,” is made from two very tiny silicon rings about one tenth the width of a human hair. This device, unlike other optical diodes, requires no external assistance to transmit signals. It transmits signals in just one direction, which makes it capable of information processing.
This new optical device will help make information processing both faster and more secure. The devices are reportedly almost ready for commercialization. Purdue graduate, Leo Varghese, says, “The major factor limiting supercomputers today is the speed and bandwidth of communication between the individual superchips in the system…. Our optical diode may be a component in optical interconnect systems that could eliminate such a bottleneck.”
As of today, optical signals need to be converted into electronic signals when they arrive at their destination using computers. This translation requires expensive equipment and also slows down information processing speed while reducing the security of data passing through. With the passive optical diode, information can be processed without translating and these problems will be alleviated.
Minghao Qi, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University, notes that the new diode is capable of “nonreciprocal transmission,” which means it transmits signals in only one direction. “This one-way transmission is the most fundamental part of a logic circuit, so our diodes open the door to optical information processing,” said Qi.
Since most of us communicate through the internet today, it will be nice to know that any private information we are discussing will be more secure. It’s always a worry that accounts and/or computers could get hacked. But hopefully with this new invention, the security will increase enough so that we don’t have to fear hackers anymore.
These passive optical diodes are described in detail in an online-published paper in the journal Science. The paper was written by graduate students Li Fan, Jian Wang, Leo Varghese, Hao Shen, and Ben Niu, research associate Yi Xuan, Weiner and Qi.