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Oxford scientists create nanoscale electro-optical device

by Mark Tyson on 2 December 2019, 13:21

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaegew

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Scientists from Oxford University, in collaboration with researchers at the universities of Münster and Exeter, have created and demonstrated the "first ever integrated nanoscale device which can be programmed with either photons or electrons". This integrated non-volatile device can bridge the fields of optical and electronic computing and is said to be an elegant way to achieve faster and more energy efficient memory and processor operations.

Light-based, laser or photonic computing has been previously touted as potentially delivering a leap in speed and efficiency to computer architectures and this new nanoscale device development demonstrably helps computing components jump the optical-electronic barrier. The scientists combined concepts from integrated photonics, plasmonics and electronic memory technologies "to deliver a compact device that can operate simultaneously as an optical or electrical memory, and as a processor," says the University of Exeter research blog.

The new nanoscale device can store and process information using light or electricity or any combination of these two. Energy and processing efficiency is perhaps the most significant attraction of photonic computing. Plasmonic nanogap enhanced phase change devices with dual electrical-optical functionality paper co-author Nathan Youngblood suggests that the new device will be particularly welcome in AI processing. "It is believed that interfacing light-based photonic computing with its electrical counterpart is the key to the next chapter in CMOS technologies," asserted Youngblood.

The full paper was published in Science Advances, 29th November 2019, linked in the paragraph above. This research was carried out as part of the EU H2020 project Fun-COMP.



HEXUS Forums :: 2 Comments

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Whilst the obvious is obvious, what's this section about how it can operate simultaneously as electrical or optical memory and as a processor…. does this mean you could have a mesh of these things and dynamically allocate it to either memory operations or processing? Just imagine on RAM batch processing without sending it to the CPU for a simple operation applied to a large chunk of data. Then sent optically to the CPU to, as they say in certain specialist Dutch films…. finish the job.
philehidiot
Whilst the obvious is obvious, what's this section about how it can operate simultaneously as electrical or optical memory and as a processor…. does this mean you could have a mesh of these things and dynamically allocate it to either memory operations or processing? Just imagine on RAM batch processing without sending it to the CPU for a simple operation applied to a large chunk of data. Then sent optically to the CPU to, as they say in certain specialist Dutch films…. finish the job.

No. What I understand this to be is that it doesn't matter what another component will output in terms of its individual bits, optical or electrical.
This will respond equally to either, rather than potentially having to “normalise” the bits to one or the other.
Any components can simply transmit out whatever is the most efficient or effective.
Sort of like interpreting Semaphore and Morse Code, it responds equally to either without having to change one to the other.