A new paper has been published revealing that researchers have created a new way that beams of light can communicate with each other.
This discovery has led researchers to explore a brand new way of computing. So, how does it work? In a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Kalaichelvi Saravanamuttu, an associate professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at McMaster says that using light beams and hydrogel developed by the Harvard team, the researchers were able to successfully prove the gel is "intelligent".
The hydrogels composition is composed of light-responsive molecules whose structures are altered once light is shone through it. This change in the gel gives it the capabilities of being able to contain light beams without 'bleeding' and the ability to transmit information from one source to another. Usually, as a beam of light travels, it broadens, but the gel is able to contain it into an almost tube-like structure.
What the researchers found when they shined multiple light beams into the gel, each about half the diameter of a human's hair, was that each of the beams of light affected the intensity of the other. This was surprising considering their optical fields weren't overlapping with neighboring beams, proving that the gel/light was "intelligent". This enabled researchers to be able to stop, start, manage, read, and even predict high-speed output. This could potentially lead to a new form of circuit-free computing.
Saravanamuttu explains, "Though they are separated, the beams still see each other and change as a result. We can imagine, in the long term, designing computing operations using this intelligent responsiveness."
Derek Morim, a graduate student in Saravanamuttu's lab who is co-first author on the paper said, "Not only can we design photoresponsive materials that reversibly switch their optical, chemical and physical properties in the presence of light, but we can use those changes to create channels of light, or self-trapped beams, that can guide and manipulate light. Further study may allow us to design even more complex materials to manipulate both light and material in specific ways."
Amos Meeks, a graduate student at Harvard's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said, "Most computation right now uses hard materials such as metal wires, semiconductors and photodiodes, to couple electronics to light. The idea behind all optical computing is to remove those rigid components and control light with light. Imagine, for example, an entirely soft, circuitry-free robot driven by light from the sun."
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