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Light Circuits

April 4, 2012

Researchers are designing faster, smaller circuits that use light instead of electricity.



The future of circuits…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

From record players and VCRs, to mp3 players and iPads, electronics have evolved at a breakneck pace. But all of these devices still have one thing in common: they use electrons moving through circuits to function. Optical scientist Nader Engheta and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania think this could change in the future. They’re designing circuits that replace electrons with light. He says these so-called “optical nanocircuits” would be faster and up to 10,000 times smaller than existing circuits. In addition, light waves have a property that electricity doesn’t: direction. Engheta says changing the direction of light within a circuit can change how it functions without rewiring it.

NADER ENGHETA (University of Pennsylvania):

This would be new paradigm for information processing.


He adds that the next challenge is to make light circuits that can process more complex information by arranging the parts of the circuit in different ways. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.