Optical computer. When the light is the future of electronics

For the past 4 decades, the Electronic Industry is developing on the so-called "law of Moore", which states that the power of computing processors is doubled every two years. During his work in Intel, one of its founders Gordon Moore came to the conclusion that the number of transistors that industry is able to fit on the processor crystal will increase twice every 24 months. And, as we see, something similar is really happening: computers and phones that seemed powerful a few years ago, compared with the latest new items look outdated. And the manufacturers of meanwhile represent all new microprocessors that can make even more operations per unit of time.

Transistors - these tiny semiconductors - the basis of any modern technology. Every year they are becoming less and more energy efficient. But should there be some limit of their reduction? Yes, and we approached it very close.

The modern transistor consists of two semiconductors with an excess of electrons and the semiconductor with a disadvantage of electrons between them. The control shutter and the floating shutter are installed above them, isolated by a dielectric. When the voltage shutter is applied to the control shutter on the floating shutter, a part of the electrons will pass through the tunnel effect. The floating shutter, which received a negative charge from the electrons' planted "on it, will interfere with the current through the transistor. In this case, the transistor will have the value "1". The size of the control shutter plays a major role. If it is less than 5 nm (nanometers), then with a floating shutter, thanks to the same tunnel effect, electron leakage will be observed, and the transistor will stop working correctly.

In modern processors, transistors with a control shutter of about 20 nm are used, and scientists are looking for ways to reduce to 5 nm.

This is interesting: The thickness of the human hair is about 70, 000 nanometers.

Perhaps due to the use of more efficient materials and dielectrics, scientists will be able to increase the computational power of the processors for some time, but sooner or later electronic computing systems have achieved its maximum power. But now experts know how to increase their performance: it is not an electron to use for calculations, but the light is a stream of photons. The main advantage of using photons is that the high frequency of the optical range waves will make it possible to achieve a high degree of parallelization of data transmission and processing. In addition, the speed of photon propagation will be almost equal to the speed of light, which will exceed the speed of propagation of signals in the usual wire, where, due to the resistance of the material itself and friction, the loss of energy occurs. And of course, such a system will not be a hindrance of solid electromagnetic fields.

The idea of ​​creating a processor called "Optical" appeared quite a long time - in the 80s, when the industry did not even even think that after a couple of decades, the performance of electronic processors will reach its limit. In those days, the optical processor was perceived as an alternative and just an interesting version of the substitution of the usual electronic processor. But now it becomes clear that it is optical computers - our future.

In such a computer, the calculations will be made using photons generated by miniature lasers and propagating the chip using the reflectors system. To preserve the modern logic of calculations in the optical processor, scientists need to recreate the fundamental element - an optical transistor. Currently, research groups of various countries offer their own options for optical transistors that could change their properties when exposed to light on them. However, so far, many of them require for their work too much intensity of the incoming light signal, which leads to increased energy consumption. In addition, the components of the optical processor are not yet possible to make enough miniature to compare with the compactness of silicon processors. The fact is that any elementary particle at the same time is a wave and moves in space as a wave. The minimum waveguide size for the photon is 600 nm, which, of course, is very much. Scientists propose to solve this problem with the help of the so-called plasmon signals - projection the frequency of oscillation of the light wave into the oscillation of electrons on the metal surface, which allows the optical system to dozens of times less, while maintaining its advantages. Currently, it is searching for optimal to implement this idea to material.

So, we see that creating an optical computer is an unusually complex and expensive task. Nevertheless, humanity in the future will certainly need computing systems that are able to process a giant amount of information for short periods of time, and an optical computer is the main candidate.

Illustration: Depositphotos | © Sarunyu_Foto