Researchers from the University of Sydney have designed a microchip capable of converting light waves into sounds waves. This enables information stored as light to be slowed down and processed more efficiently.
For the first time, digital information in the form of light waves has been converted into sound waves and placed into a microchip. The conversion process slows down the stored information, making it easier to manipulate within photonic circuits, which are being developed for use in the microchips, which control data using light instead of electrons.
This world-first was accomplished bya team of researchers from the University of Sydney, led by doctoral candidateMoritz Merklein and Dr. Brigit Stiller, with their research published in the journal Nature Communications.
Merklein and Stiller are from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) and the team used the Australian National University’s Laser Physics Centre to design the microchip.
Light is extremely useful when it comes to moving information across a great distance, but its unbeatable speed is also a detriment, as it makes it difficult for computer and telecommunication systems to process the stored information. Speed isn’t useful if the information can’t be processed
This is why sound waves, or rather the conversion from light to sound waves, work so well here.
This process slows the information down long enough for it to be processed, before it is converted back into light waves and sent on its way.
“The information in our chip in acoustic form travels at a velocity five orders of magnitude slower than in the optical domain,” said Stiller. “It is like the difference between thunder and lightning.
Traditional electronic devices used in telecommunications and optical fiber networks are vulnerable to interference and are capable of producing excessive heat and using too much energy. Implementing light and sound waves on a photonic microchip eliminates these problems – photons are immune to electromagnetic interference, and there is no electronic resistance to produce heat.
Additionally, with this process, overall bandwidth is increased and data can always travel at light-speed. “Our system is not limited to a narrow bandwidth,” added Stiller. “So unlike previous systems this allows us to store and retrieve information at multiple wavelengths simultaneously, vastly increasing the efficiency of the device.”
Transferring information from light to sound and back again inside a microchip is critical for the development of photonic integrated circuits – microchips that use light to manage data.
These chips, tested by CUDOS team in the Laser Physics Centre at the Australian National University, are being developed for use in telecommunications, optical fiber networks and cloud computing data centers where traditional electronic devices are susceptible to electromagnetic interference, produce too much heat or use too much energy.