The technological world of the 21st century owes a tremendous amount to advances in electrical engineering, specifically, the ability to finely control the flow of electrical charges using increasingly small and complicated circuits. And while those electrical advances continue to race ahead, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are pushing circuitry forward in a different way, by replacing electricity with light.
The main advantage of using light is a huge reduction in power, and potentially a vast increase in bandwidth. In general, increasing bandwidth over an electrical connection requires more power. Computers already constitute a large percentage of humanity’s power needs, and optical interconnects could go a long way to keeping power consumption down in the long term. The same multiplexing techniques that are used to carry terabits per second over fiber optic networks would also apply to computer chips, too.