Swirling data: Boosting computing power and info transfer rates tenfold

The image above shows vortex laser on a chip. Because the laser beam travels in a corkscrew pattern, encoding information into different vortex twists, it’s able to carry 10 times or more the amount of information than that of conventional lasers.
University at Buffalo
The image above shows vortex laser on a chip. Because the laser beam travels in a corkscrew pattern, encoding information into different vortex twists, it’s able to carry 10 times or more the amount of information than that of conventional lasers.

Original news release was issued by the University at Buffalo, written by Cory Nealon

“The bigger, the better”. Today’s world is obsessed with this idiom and as such, it can be seen all around us. Automobile manufacturers make bulkier cars, engineers constantly strive to build taller buildings. But when it comes to computers and computer chips in particular, the opposite is true. Society’s ever growing demand for information sharing is loosely linked with how big, or rather how small the computer chips are. Researchers are running into a bottleneck in which they struggle to handle the demand for data. However, the UB-led team may lead us out of this darkness with a newly developed encoding mechanism involving lasers, which is said to be able to carry 10 times or more the amount of data than that of conventional lasers.

“To transfer more data while using less energy, we need to rethink what’s inside these machines,” says Liang Feng, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University at Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the study’s co-lead author.

The UB team approached the matter in numerous ways including optical communication, which uses light to carry information. With techniques like wavelength-division multiplexing and time-division multiplexing slowly becoming obsolete, researchers pushed the laser technology towards another light manipulation technique called orbital angular momentum. This method distributes the laser in a corkscrew pattern with a vortex at the center.

In order to make it compatible with computer chips, the authors were able to shrink the vortex laser. Because the laser beam travels in a corkscrew pattern, encoding information into different vortex twists, it’s able to carry 10 times or more the amount of information than that of conventional lasers, which move linearly. The vortex laser alone wont suffice though, advanced transmitters and receivers will be ultimately needed.

The optic advancement in question (and other initiatives, as we have reported before) may also satisfy those fretting over the predicted end of Moore’s law, a theory, which states that overall processing power for computers will double every two years. So far, it has been a success story, as is evidenced by the current smartphones sporting more computing power than the monstrous “file cabinet” computers of the 1980’s. Let’s hope researchers will keep finding new ways to satiate the unceasing hunger.

Michal Madaras

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