Wenlan Chen, Kristin M. Beck, Robert Bücker, Michael Gullans, Mikhail D. Lukin, Haruka Tanji-Suzuki, Vladan Vuletić
An optical switch that can be turned on by a single photon could point toward new designs for both classical and quantum computers.
Optical computing — using light rather than electricity to perform calculations — could pay dividends for both conventional computers and quantum computers, largely hypothetical devices that could perform some types of computations exponentially faster than classical computers.
But optical computing requires light particles — photons — to modify each other’s behavior, something they’re naturally averse to doing: Two photons that collide in a vacuum simply pass through each other.
In the latest issue of the journal Science, researchers at MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics — together with colleagues at Harvard University and the Vienna University of Technology — describe the experimental realization of an optical switch that’s controlled by a single photon, allowing light to govern the transmission of light. As such, it’s the optical analog of a transistor, the fundamental component of a computing circuit.
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