By using an "inverse design algorithm," Stanford engineers believe they have created a system that allows them to economically design optical interconnects, allowing for wires to be replaced with optical circuits. Light, unlike electrons travelling through wires, would use less power and produce less heat while making computers faster.
The Stanford work relies on the well-known fact that infrared light will pass through silicon the way sunlight shines through glass.
And just as a prism bends visible light to reveal the rainbow, different silicon structures can bend infrared light in useful ways.
The Stanford algorithm designs silicon structures so slender that more than 20 of them could sit side-by-side inside the diameter of a human hair. These silicon interconnects can direct a specific frequency of infrared light to a specific location to replace a wire.
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