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European light research opens door for optical storage and computing
Date:4/24/2008

The goal of replacing electronics with optics for processing data in computers is coming closer through cutting edge European research into the mysterious properties of fast and slow light. The long term aim is to boost processing speeds and data storage densities by several orders of magnitude and take the information technology industry into a new era, combining greatly improved performance with dramatically lower energy consumption.

The phenomenon of fast and slow light arises from the dispersion of electromagnetic waves when they interact with, and travel through, a physical medium such as a crystal. This can have the effect of slowing down the light pulses, or on occasions appearing to cause local acceleration. These speed variations have the potential for developing purely optical devices using just electromagnetic radiation, rather than electrical signals, to store and process information. In the more immediate future, these properties will be used to enhance existing hybrid communication systems combining electronic and photonic (light-based) devices. But first more fundamental research is needed, and the current state of play along with a roadmap for future projects was discussed at a recent workshop organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF).

The project achieved its main objectives of reviewing the state of the art, highlighting possible applications, and gathering a dispersed European community of scientists, according to the workshops convenor Marco Santagiustina. There were two remarkable highlights: slow and fast light research has immense potential in applications like microwave and millimeter wave photonics, and secondly such applications can be targeted by making progress in a selected set of technologies, said Santagiustina.

Light signals are already used for communication over fibre optic cables, but cannot yet be stored directly, or used for computation. This would require slowing down the light signals so t
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Contact: Marco Santagiustina
marco.santagiustina@unipd.it
39-049-827-7717
European Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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