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Nanometer Chips Blend Work on Quantum Affects and Light

For all you science geeks out there, consider this blog as my chip and quantum computer design “weird science” update. [Weird because quantum mechanics is weird … cool weird, but still weird.]

Today’s electronics are based upon a flow of electrons. Conversely, quantum computers will use photons or particles of light instead of electrons. One of the first steps in building a workable quantum computer is to create an on-demand photon generator. Two recent papers by The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) scientists define a mechanism for creating and delivering such photons. In their works, these scientist describe not only how to produce a steady flow of photons but also how to do so one at a time and only when needed by the computer’s processor. (see Figure 1)

Why build a quantum computer in the first place? The reason is simply that such systems could perform calculations that are impossible using conventional computers by, “taking advantage of the peculiar rules of quantum mechanics.”

For more developments on quantum computers, see: “Quantum Computers Move A QuBit Closer To Reality

Figure 1: Gated photon source starts with the bright green laser beam that strikes a crystal and is converted into pairs of photons (false colored blue here, it’s at the end of the red spectrum) and (in the infrared, false colored red here.) The “blue” beam is the herald channel, the “red” beam goes through a spool of optical fiber (right) to delay it long enough for the gate to open or shut. Credit: Brida, INRIM

 

Optical systems, like their quantum brethren, are also based on light. Since nothing that contains any information can travel faster than the speed of light, the medium makes an ideal candidate for high-bandwidth interface I/Os between deep-submicron CMOS chips. The curious thing is that deep-submicron chips are now designed at the nanometer level, where the effects of quantum mechanics begin to actively affect the flow of electrons.

Isn’t it interesting how the two worlds of quantum mechanics and light keep impinging on one another?

IMEC, the world’s leading-research center in nanoelectronics, has just launched a new research program aimed at high-speed, high-bandwidth optical interfaces for communication between chips. If anyone can shine some light onto this problem of achieving mind-boggling communication speeds between integrated circuits, it’s IMEC.

Figure 2: Silicon-photonics wafer processed at IMEC’s fab.

One Response to “Nanometer Chips Blend Work on Quantum Affects and Light”

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