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Has the era of photon computing arrived? What does the photonic chip bring to us?

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Update time : 2021-01-05 10:17:59
What is an optical chip?

A photonic integrated circuit (PIC) or integrated circuit is a device that integrates multiple (at least two) photonic functions, so it is similar to an electronic integrated circuit. As of 2012, the device has integrated hundreds of functions on a single chip. That is, related researchers have integrated the light-emitting properties of indium phosphide and the optical routing capabilities of silicon into a single hybrid chip. When a voltage is applied to indium phosphide, the light enters the waveguide of the silicon chip to generate a continuous laser beam, which can drive other silicon photonic devices.


This silicon-based laser technology can make photonics more widely used in computers because large-scale silicon-based manufacturing technology can greatly reduce costs. Intel believes that although the technology is still a long way from commercialization, it is believed that dozens or even hundreds of hybrid silicon lasers will be integrated into a single silicon-based chip along with other silicon photonics components in the future. This is the beginning of low-cost mass production of highly integrated silicon photonic chips. 
How does the photonic integrated circuit work?

Photonic integrated circuits use photons, massless elementary particles that represent light quantum instead of electrons. Photons move through the transmission medium at the speed of light and are hardly interfered with by other photons.
The human brain is highly interconnected with tens of billions of neurons and has powerful processing capabilities. Experiments have shown that the amount of calculation that a biological brain can process in 1 second can be completed by a supercomputer in 40 minutes. The brain-like photonic chip simulates the calculation of the human brain and processes the data under the neural network framework that simulates the brain through the information carried by photons so that the chip achieves high-speed parallel and low-power calculations like the human brain. The combination of a photonic chip based on micro-nano photonic integration and a neural network data processing system based on optical computing is the key to dealing with future information processing capabilities with low power consumption, high speed, wide bandwidth, and large data volume.
Does the photonics society replace electronics?

We use and generate a lot of data every year. However, our current technology based on electronic chips is reaching its limits. The limiting factor is heat, which is generated by the resistance encountered by electrons passing through the copper wires that connect the many transistors on the chip. If we want to continue to transmit more and more data every year, we need a new technology that does not generate heat. Introducing photonics, it uses photons (light particles) to transmit data.
How likely is it that photonic integrated circuits will completely replace electronic integrated circuits in the next 50 years? As Jacob VanWagoner and Razvan Baba mentioned, photonic integrated circuits (PIC) cannot completely replace electronic circuits.
In contrast to electrons, photons have no resistance. Because they have no mass or charge, they scatter less in the materials they pass by and therefore do not generate heat. Therefore, energy consumption will be reduced. In addition, by replacing electrical communication within a chip with optical communication, the communication speed on and between chips can be increased by 1,000 times. The data center will benefit the most because the data center has faster transmission speeds and lower energy consumption cooling systems. But these photonic chips will also bring new applications.
What is silicon photonics?

Silicon photonics is an evolving technology in which data is transmitted between computer chips through light. Compared with electrical conductors, light can transmit more data in a shorter time. This technology uses laser light to transmit data into light pulses.
For decades, silicon luminescence has been the "Holy Grail" of the microelectronics industry. Solving this problem will completely change computing because chips will be faster than ever. Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology have succeeded: they have developed a silicon alloy that can emit light. The team will now begin to create silicon lasers that can be integrated into current chips.

How does silicon photonics work?

This method is called silicon photonics technology, and it involves the use of silicon semiconductors as the medium of optical signals. Compared with traditional electronic-based semiconductor devices, it can achieve faster digital signal transmission. The photons must then be modulated to break the light into light pulses.
Silicon photonics technology enables photonics as an information carrier to realize the safety and reliability of signal transmission. It is a disruptive, strategic and forward-looking technology facing the future. Through silicon-optical integration, using light to replace the original electricity for transmission, the cost may be reduced to one-tenth or even lower. At present, the world silicon photonics industry is gaining momentum. Since this technology will be used in data communications, biochemical medicine, autonomous driving, national defense and security in the future, silicon photonics technology is becoming the darling of the capital market.
Development status of the photonic chip
The experimental photonic chip can reach crazy 44 TB internet speed
A research team in Australia recorded the fastest Internet speed in history, with a single light source speed reaching an absolutely stunning 44.2 megabits per second. This is 44,000 times faster than the highest speed connections available to consumers today. This incredible feat is achieved by a new optical chip.
The team, made up of researchers from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities, tested the technology using 76.6 kilometers (47.6 miles) of optical fiber installed between two university campuses in Melbourne, Australia.
Within the bandwidth of 4 THz, the network can transmit data at an ultra-fast speed of 44.2 Tb/s. It's hard to exaggerate how fast it is. The fastest Internet speed available to consumers is Google Fiber, which has a clock of 1 Gb/s. The US Department of Energy’s dedicated scientific network ESnet has a maximum speed of 400 Gb/s, but this is reserved for organizations such as NASA.


Arnan Mitchell, the lead researcher of the study, said: "In the long run, we want to create integrated photonic chips that can achieve this data rate over existing fiber links at a minimal cost." "Initially, they were for data. Ultra-high-speed communication between centers will be attractive. However, we can imagine that this technology becomes cheap and compact enough to be deployed by the public in cities around the world for commercial use."
New photonic chips can bring quantum computers to everyone
Speed is what everyone wants. We don't want mobile phones to slow down and computers to slow down. Ultrafast quantum computers and communication devices can break this, but what we need is an effective source of entangled photon pairs that can help us transmit and manipulate information. The good news is that we can now achieve this goal with a 100-fold increase in efficiency, and such large-scale integrated quantum devices are also within our scope.
This amazing feat was achieved by researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology. Creating photon pairs requires careful trapping of light in an engraved nanoscale microcavity. As light circulates in the cavity, the photons resonate and split into entangled pairs. Although this process seems relatively easy, there is a problem here.
In the current state of our technology, it is found that such a system requires a large amount of incident laser light, and the light must contain about hundreds of millions of photons to ensure a pair of entangled photons. Another method developed by Huang and others at Stevens is based on a chip photon source, which seems to be 100 times more efficient than any existing device, so it can generate tens of millions of pairs per second from a single microwatt-powered laser beam. . These racetrack-shaped cavities help reflect photons with very low internal energy, allowing the light to circulate for a longer time, thereby increasing efficiency.
This is definitely achievable. The team is continuing to refine its technology and find more ways to use this photon source to drive logic gates and other quantum components. Since the technology is based on chips, they plan to expand the scale by integrating other optical components. The ultimate goal is to make quantum devices run efficiently and cheaply in order to integrate them into mainstream electronic devices. He is eager to see our children carry quantum laptops, and hopes to see quantum technology outside the laboratory.
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