With the current device architectures, slower-speed electronics and complex optical electrical-optical (O/E/O) conversion are required to perform computation. Despite the development of several all-optical logic gate architectures, the lack of a practical optical information storage technology makes sequential binary operations using these devices very difficult and thus severely limits the computational scaling capability. Although a variety of techniques including fiber optic loop, slow light, and nonlinear photonic crystal have been proposed to achieve optical information storage, these devices are either too bulky or hard to scale to the desired capacity.
Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed an optical memory, which includes an array of optical material and a beam scanning device. The optical material transitions between two different states in response to an incident light, and the beam scanning device selectively directs a received optical data signal across the array of optical material. Taken together, the system enables optical storage, as well as all-optical signal processing using the optical storage, without requiring optical/ electric/ optical (O/E/O) conversion. In addition, the all-optical storage may be used at interfaces between electrical and optical circuit components where conversion is desired.
Applications and Advantages
- Can be used in all optical memory (storage) as well as all-optical signal processing units
- High operating speeds
- Very low power consumption
- Easily scalable to complex computation without the need for significant additional optical components