In the digital era, an increasing number of consumers want speedy computers. Research scientists are developing light-based computers that can run at speeds a million times faster than current capabilities, or similar to a sonic boom.
Personal computing is inching closer to the photonic information age and it is hinged on one thing: the finetuning of the electrical conductivity of glass.
Richard Curry, a physicist from the University of Surrey and lead investigator of a study that sought to find a single material that can effectively use and control light to carry information around a computer, revealed interesting findings. It turns out a widely used glass (Chalcogenide glass) can be manipulated to conduct negative electrons as well as positive charges.
It can enable the material to act as a light source, guide, and detector which can carry and interpret optical information. Doing so will set the stage in transforming the computers of the future, allowing them to process information at much faster speeds. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Another study, conducted by research scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, revealed that emitted light from the superconductor graphene opens up more possibilities. The MIT researchers uncovered that a sheet of graphene can be used to produce an optical boom, or a sort of shockwave of light theoretically similar to the sonic boom shockwave (picture an airplane exceeding the speed of sound).
Graphene’s flexibility, lightness, and ability to conduct heat and electricity better than most other materials make it a suitable material to make new types of superconducting quantum devices. Graphene allows the passage of electrons up to 1/300 the speed of light in vacuum.
Getting electrons and photons to almost the same speed could lead to breaking the light barrier, which may translate to making operating speeds up to a million times faster. The foreseen downside is that graphene is prohibitively expensive.
Fortunately, researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland devised a way to produce large sheets of high-quality graphene a hundred times cheaper than previous methods. Experimentation led the research team to cast attention on copper foils, which are being cheaply made in bulk to create common household lithium-ion batteries.
Without any processing, the team found that the copper foils were smooth enough to make high-quality single-atom sheets of graphene. Said sheets displayed optical-electrical properties during testing. The breakthrough research, published in Scientific Reports ushers exciting developments as far as making new innovations that include high-tech computers and medical devices are concerned.