New anti-laser tech paves way for optical computing

Yale University researchers have created the inverse of a laser

Yale University scientists have built what they call the first anti-laser, a device that can cancel out beams of light generated by a laser.

Such a device could be an integral element in optical computers, a long promised successor to today's computers that would use light instead of electrons to process information.

While scientists have long known of different ways to absorb light, this work is unique in that can absorb light of a particular wavelength, the researchers claim.

"After some research, we found that several physicists had hinted at the concept in books and scientific papers, but no one had ever developed the idea," said Yale University physicist A. Douglas Stone, who along with fellow researcher Hui Cao led a team of researchers to build the anti-laser. The device was based on the theoretical work Stone published last summer. A summary of their work appears in the Feb. 18 issue of Science.

Lasers, short for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, generate coherent light, which is to say a stream of light photons that all have the same frequency, amplitude and wave pattern.

The researchers built what they call a Coherent Perfect Absorber (CPA), a silicon wafer that traps and dissipates incoming coherent light of a predefined wavelength. In other words, just as a laser generates coherent light, the CPA absorbs coherent light. The light's energy is dissipated as heat.

Such an anti-laser switch could help solve one of the toughest challenges in building an optical computer, namely the management and manipulation of the light used to encode information. For instance, a CPA could be used in an optical switch, one that would absorb light of a particular wavelength while letting light with other wavelengths pass. It could also be used to detect incoming light, or as a waveguide to direct beams of light along certain routes.

That could lead to optical switches replacing transistors in future computers. Optical computers could potentially be much more powerful than today's computers, given that the size of components could be shrunk beyond the limits of today's electron-based technologies.

As with any prototype, the CPA has some limitations, which the researchers feel can be overcome with more work. The current CPA absorbs 99.4 of all light it receives, but they would like to get that number up to 99.999 percent. Also the current CPA is one centimeter wide, which they say can be shrunk to a much more compact six microns.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags popular sciencesupercomputersHigh performanceYale Universityhardware systems

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?