Programmable photonic integrated circuits process light waves used for computation, sensing, and signal transmission in a programmable manner to meet different requirements. Researchers from the Gyeongsangbuk Institute of Science and Technology in Daegu, South Korea, and collaborators from the Korean Academy of Science and Technology have made significant progress in integrating microelectromechanical systems into PPICs.
Their research has been published in the journal Nature Photonics.
"Programmable photon processors have the potential to surpass traditional supercomputers and provide faster, more efficient, and large-scale parallel computing power," said Sangyoon Han of the DGIST team. He emphasized that in addition to using light instead of current to increase speed, the significant reduction in power consumption and size of PPICs may also lead to significant advancements in artificial intelligence, neural networks, quantum computing, and communication.
Microelectromechanical systems are the core of this new advancement, consisting of tiny components that can convert optical, electronic, and mechanical changes to perform various communication and mechanical functions required for integrated circuits.
Researchers believe that they are the first to integrate silicon-based photonic MEMS technology into PPIC chips, which operate with extremely low power requirements.
"Our innovation has significantly reduced power consumption to the gigawatt level, which is over a million times higher than previous technological levels," Han said. This technology can also be built on chips that are five times smaller than existing options.
One key to significantly reducing power demand is to break free from the dependence on temperature changes required by mainstream "thermal optical" systems currently in use. The required small mechanical movements are powered by electrostatic forces, which are the attraction and repulsion forces between fluctuating charges.
The components integrated on the team chip can manipulate light wave characteristics called "phase" and control the coupling between different parallel waveguides to guide and constrain light. These are the two most basic requirements for building a PPIC. These functions interact with micro mechanical actuators to complete programmable integrated circuits.
The key to this progress is to apply innovative concepts to the manufacturing of required silicon-based components. It is crucial that the manufacturing process can be used in conjunction with traditional silicon wafer technology. This makes it compatible with the large-scale production of photon chips necessary for commercial applications.
The team now plans to improve their technology to build and commercialize a photonic computer that will outperform traditional electronic computers in various applications. Han said that specific examples of applications include critical inference tasks in artificial intelligence, advanced image processing, and high bandwidth data transmission.
"We hope to continue to break through the boundaries of computational technology and further contribute to the field of photonics and its practical applications in modern technology," Han concluded.
Source: Laser Net