Photonics Breakthrough by Intel

Scientists at chipmaker Intel Corporation have successful built and operated a continuous silicon laser, something that until recently was believed to be impossible. Silicon tends to scatter photons. As reported in an article in the current issue of the journal Nature, the new silicon laser makes use of a diode to prevent this scattering, resulting in a continuous laser beam.

Current computer and communication technologies depend on converting photons of light into electrons for use by electronic equipment. The holy grail of photonics is to eliminate this inefficient conversion and create equipment that uses only photons. This would lead to optical computers that run cooler and faster than current microchips. Communication speeds, including Internet access would see a similar jump in speed. Intel’s new laser brings the benefits of photonics to silicon, which is much cheaper to work with than current photonics equipment made from more exotic and expensive materials.

Chips and equipment making use of this technology are still several years away, but a clear development path appears to have opened up.

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Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a fiction writer and poet, with his first published poem forthcoming later in 2017 from Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey. Richard is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team at the University of Arizona. He monitors images of the Martian surface taken by the HiRISE camera located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars and helps ensure they process successfully and are validated for quick release to the science community and public. Once upon a time, Richard wrote and edited the science and technology news and commentary website Frontier Channel, hosted the RADIO Frontier Channel podcast, and organized transhumanist clubs. Follow Richard on his website (, on Goodreads (richardleis), his (@richardleis), Twitter (@richardleisjr), and Facebook (richardleisjr).