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Technology Science

World's Smallest Optical Switch Uses a Single Atom (gizmag.com) 38

Zothecula writes: The rapid and on-going development of micro-miniature optical electronic devices is helping to usher in a new era of photonic computers and light-based memories that promise super-fast processor speeds and ultra-secure communications. However, as these components are shrunk ever further, fundamental limits to their dimensions are dictated by the wavelength of light itself. Now researchers at ETH Zurich claim to have overcome this limitation by creating both the world's smallest optical switch using a single atom, and accompanying circuitry that appears to break the rules by being smaller than the wavelength of the light that passes through it.
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World's Smallest Optical Switch Uses a Single Atom

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  • by Ecuador ( 740021 ) on Saturday February 06, 2016 @11:01PM (#51455409) Homepage

    Not that impressive, other optical switches don't require a CPU at all, never mind an Atom!

    (Yeah, I know, Title Case. Still doesn't help me parse correctly sometimes)

  • That's cool, but my understanding is that the limit on processor speed isn't the switching speed, we've had transistors that switch at 600GHz [newscientist.com] for a while now. The problem is making good wires to connect them together, while dissipating heat.
    • That's cool, but my understanding is that the limit on processor speed isn't the switching speed, we've had transistors that switch at 600GHz for a while now. The problem is making good wires to connect them together, while dissipating heat.

      Well, no. The problem is that was a PoC, and they hadn't even developed a single multi-gate circuit by the time you posted that article. We do not have 600GHz transistors. They are coming, eventually. Even when they do, they may or may not be good for making VLSI ICs with, which remains to be seen. Maybe they'll only be useful as signal amplifiers in the end, and we'll have to go optical to improve computing performance.

  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Saturday February 06, 2016 @11:17PM (#51455459)

    for people who find really tiny switches a huge turn-on

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well I don't care much for tiny switches but I am hugely turned on by things which use a single atom.

  • yet when can I go down to my store of choice and pick up an optronic computer? Or even an optronic Casio watch?
  • welcome back, bro (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BigDukeSix ( 832501 ) on Saturday February 06, 2016 @11:59PM (#51455569)
    Offtopic, perhaps, but I'm looking at the front page of Slashdot. For the first time in years, no fucking political/sociological/pseudo-tech clickbait bullshit. Finally.

    If this is the new boss, I'm all for it. I care a lot about politics, privacy, and economics. I come to Slashdot for other stuff.


    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by dinfinity ( 2300094 )

      Although I personally don't mind Slashdot straying slightly into more 'stuff that matters' than 'news for nerds', I would not at all miss all the clickbait articles, the rile-em-up-articles, the terrible teaser non-summaries and all the other disgraces to this community we have been experiencing for months and months now.

      So yes, seconded. Crossing my fingers and hoping Slashdot is indeed back to greatness!

  • by SETY ( 46845 ) on Sunday February 07, 2016 @12:01AM (#51455575)

    I actually read the article. This seems like a pretty big deal. The megahertz switching speed is the only negative.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      Not even. The bandwidth gain alone from this even in the megahertz range is nuts. Let us see if this thing can handle multiple wavelengths simultaneously.

    • It's great work, very fascinating. The speed can probably improved up to a point but it could be a valuable technology based only on the energy per bit switching event, since this sets the energy limit for a given piece of computation.

      A more important challenge is integrating this into a circuit and figuring out how to get electrical signals into optical switches based on the output of an optical switch. Transistors are great since they are electrical input and output, and with complementary logic they on

  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Sunday February 07, 2016 @01:07AM (#51455707) Homepage
    Is it binary (on/off) or cat (alive/dead/both)?
  • Quick! Someone form a Tech Article Sins (if one doesn't already exist... I think a Cracked video hinted at the existence of one) and count up the number of "Sins" this article racks up. They are doing very well at the "describe a limiting factor using vague words" game, similar to the pronoun game.
    "break the rules"
    "fundamental constraints"
    "hitherto unlikely"

    Alright, so I've finally come across details that draw into question the article's assertion of an "optical switch using a single atom and accompan
  • Does this mean that there is a limit to Moore's law, or will someone figure out how to go subatomic?

It isn't easy being the parent of a six-year-old. However, it's a pretty small price to pay for having somebody around the house who understands computers.