Sydney Scientist Make A Breakthrough, Store Light As Sound Waves For First Time

5:13 pm 19 Sep, 2017


Achieving a significant breakthrough, a team of scientists from the University of Sydney has successfully managed to convert digital information carried by light waves into sound waves inside a microchip.

Representational Image IFL Science

Experts from across the world are hailing this breakthrough innovation as extremely crucial as it will aid in the development of photonic integrated circuits, the basis of computers that use light instead of electrons for managing and storing data. If the entire development becomes successful, these systems would not be subjected to electromagnetic interference anymore and, hence, neither produce too much heat nor consume too much energy.

Although light has often been regarded as one of the best instruments for telecommunications, its high speed has often proved to be a hindrance for computers, due to the latter’s incapability to process the same. Hence, the invention of the chip by the Sydney scientists, which has successfully converted light energy into sound energy for the first time, solves this problem to a great extent.

According to the project supervisor Dr Birgit Stiller:

The information in our chip in acoustic form travels at a velocity five orders of magnitude slower than in the optical domain. It is like the difference between thunder and lightning.

Light is being used for telecommunications for quite some time now, however, when its signals get to the electronic devices, the data is passed onto electrons. It is to curb this transfer of signals on to the electrons that many companies had been investigating, and exploring the possibility of moving the signals straight onto pure photonic microchips. To do so, many experiments have been conducted, but all of them turned out to be futile in delivering a stable and usable chip. In this backdrop, scientists are hailing the new breakthrough as the right approach to bring photonic computers a step closer to reality.

Stiller further explained:


Our system is not limited to a narrow bandwidth. So unlike previous systems this allows us to store and retrieve information at multiple wavelengths simultaneously, vastly increasing the efficiency of the device.

Although managing the heat generated from the computers may just mean nothing to the everyday regular users, it is definitely of utmost importance for anyone dealing with server farms or supercomputers to take into account a vast amount of waste heat. For them, switching on to photonic computers may be of great help.

According to co-author Professor Benjamin Eggleton:

This is an important step forward in the field of optical information processing as this concept fulfills all requirements for current and future generation optical communication systems.

Seeing from this light, it seems that the photonic devices aim at bridging the gap between current models and the quantum computers of the future.