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Nano switch brightens outlook for optical computers


IBM scientists have built the world’s smallest nanophotonic switch, about 100 times smaller than the cross section of a human hair. This marks another significant advance towards sending information inside a computer chip by using light pulses instead of electrons.

“This new development is a critical addition in the quest to build an on-chip optical network,” – said Yurii Vlasov, manager of silicon nanophotonics at IBM’s TJ Watson Research Center. “In view of all the progress that this field has seen for the last few years it looks that our vision for on-chip optical networks is becoming more and more realistic.”

This is the latest in a series of developments by IBM researchers towards an on-chip optical network. Previous breakthroughs included a device that can significantly slow down and actively control the speed of light, a buffering device that houses information coded in optical pulses and an ultra-compact modulator that converts electrical signals into light.


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