News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

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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