Optical Computing Technology
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Optical computing means performing computations, operations, storage and transmission of data using light. Instead of silicon chips optical computer uses organic polymers like phthalocyanine and polydiacetylene.Optical technology promises massive upgrades in the efficiency and speed of computers, as well as significant shrinkage in their size and cost. An optical desktop computer is capable of processing data up to 1,00,000 times faster than current models. With the growth of computing technology the need of high performance computers (HPC) has significantly increased. Optics has been used in computing for a number of years but the main emphasis has been and continues to be to link portions of computers, for communications, or more intrinsically in devices that have some optical application or component (optical pattern recognition etc.)
Optical computing was a hot research area in 1980’s.But the work tapered off due to materials limitations that prevented optochips from getting small enough and cheap enough beyond laboratory curiosities. Now, optical computers are back with advances in self-assembled conducting organic polymers that promise super-tiny of all optical chips.
Optical computing technology is, in general, developing in two directions. One approach is to build computers that have the same architecture as present day computers but using optics that is Electro optical hybrids. Another approach is to generate a completely new kind of computer, which can perform all functional operations in optical mode. In recent years, a number of devices that can ultimately lead us to real optical computers have already been manufactured. These include optical logic gates, optical switches, optical interconnections and optical memory. Current trends in optical computing emphasize communications, for example the use of free space optical interconnects as a potential solution to remove ‘Bottlenecks’ experienced in electronic architectures. Optical technology is one of the most promising, and may eventually lead to new computing applications as a consequence of faster processing speed, as well as better connectivity and higher bandwidth.
1. High speed communications :The rapid growth of internet, expanding at almost 15% per month, demands faster speeds and larger bandwidth than electronic circuits can provide. Terabits speeds are needed to accommodate the growth rate of internet since in optical computers data is transmitted at the speed of light which is of the order of 3(10*8 m/sec hence terabit speeds are attainable. 2. Optical crossbar interconnects are used in asynchronous transfer modes and shared memory multiprocessor systems. 3. Process satellite data.
Research in optical computing has opened up new possibilities in several fields related to high performance computing, high-speed communications. To design algorithms that execute applications faster ,the specific properties of optics must be considered, such as their ability to exploit massive parallelism, and global interconnections. As optoelectronic and smart pixel devices mature, software development will have a major impact in the future and the ground rules for the computing may have to be rewritten.