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article imageFaster computers from ultrashort light pulses

By Tim Sandle     Mar 15, 2017 in Technology
Computers of the future may be able to operate at speeds 100,000 times faster than those of today if the promises of ultrashort light pulses are realized.
Ultrashort light pulses are very short pulses of laser light that run on the femtosecond scale. This time is very, very fast, with a femtosecond being 1,000,000,000,000,000th of a second; that is, one quadrillionth, or one millionth of one billionth, of a second. Not only are these light pulses quick they are also configurable and can be twisted. Thus it is both the speed and the flexibility that holds great promise for computing.
The process of creating ultrashort light pulses involves manipulating elections so they move faster and more efficiently than electric currents. The development is part of an emerging field called lightwave electronics and this field is being co-developed with quantum computing. Essentially controlled light waves can be used to steer electrons inside and around atoms, leading to next-generation lightwave electronics.
The reason why this breakthrough is important is because of a flaw with modern electronics. As elections pass through a semiconductor in a computer they will collide with other electrons. This collision leads to the generation of heat. This leads to inefficiencies (since it slows down energy), plus the problem of electronic devices becoming hot. The theory of ultrashort light pulses means that electrons can be guided so that they do not crash into each other.
The new development with ultrashort light pulses has come from a research group led by Professor Mackillo Kira from the University of Michigan. In a research note the academic says he hopes he will be “able to exploit this principle to build future computers that work at unprecedented clock rates — 10 to a hundred thousand times faster than state-of-the-art electronics."
The step to achieving this is by mobilizing electrons inside a semiconductor crystal using terahertz radiation (which is part of the electromagnetic spectrum). To achieve this, the researchers directed laser pulses into a crystal of gallium selenide. These pulses were very short at less 100 quadrillionths of a second. Each pulse activated the electrons in the semiconductor into a higher energy level and then carried them onward. These bursts of light were just a few femtoseconds long.
Through different studies the researchers were able to control the pulses. They also managed to use the crystal to twist the outgoing light waves. The next step is to use the electrons in experiments for quantum computations as qubits. In quantum computing, a qubit (quantum bit) is a unit of quantum information.
The research has been published in a paper titled "Symmetry-controlled temporal structure of high-harmonic carrier fields from a bulk crystal," which is found in the journal Nature Photonics.
In related news, In what could overturn our understanding of physics, a new phase of matter has been created. This is called, colloquially at least, “a time crystal.” Here atoms appear to move in a pattern that repeats in time rather than in space. This discovery could also advance quantum computing, as reported by Digital Journal.
More about Computers, Computing, ultrashort light pulses, qubits, quantum computing
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