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Scientists can now store light as sound waves on a computer chip

By William Gayde · 24 replies
Sep 18, 2017
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  1. We typically think of light, sound and computer data as very different things. Light is an electromagnetic wave, sound is an acoustic vibration and data is a 0 or 1 on a computer.

    Researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia, however, are combining these three domains to help create what they are calling an optical computer. They recently published their findings, "A chip-integrated coherent photonic-phononic memory," in Nature Communications.

    Rather than processing data in the form of electrons, the researchers are using photons. This optical computer has the benefit of producing essentially no heat, being immune to electromagnetic interference and using far less energy than modern computers. Plus, it's roughly 20 times faster.

    The researchers needed this acoustic technology because photons move really, really fast. By converting the photons into sound waves using a "photonic microchip," they can slow down the data enough for their circuitry to actually process it.

    The technology passes in various pulses of light which interact and produce minute vibrations inside the chip. This acoustic buffer allows the computer to better control the information being processed by several orders of magnitude. By passing in signals of different bandwidths at the same time, the scientists can also vastly increase the performance of the computer.

    While this is all several years or even decades away from being a viable product, the potential improvements to the computing industry are huge if the technology can be scaled to full systems.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,286

    Very innovative.
    Reehahs and bmw95 like this.
  3. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,527   +3,911

    So, if light can be stored and could essentially contain data, the future might bring an SSD that is 1000x times faster than current versions. Hmmmmmmmmmm ...........
  4. JaredTheDragon

    JaredTheDragon TS Guru Posts: 621   +397

    This is ridiculous. There are no phonons, and what they're actually creating are photon processors - and good for them!

    With modern charge field theory, we know now that electricity isn't based on the electron at all. It's just along for the ride. Electricity is the axial pole-to-pole transmission of charge (photons) through nuclei, and magnetism is the equatorial spinning emission of charge. Photons ARE charge. The electron emits 1/1821 as much charge as the proton. Once you assign the + and - numbers to actual, physical particles instead of just in the math, you can solve all kinds of problems.

    Kinda cool that someone is finally catching on. It's kinda silly that they're slowing the photons down into sound data just to make it work. The chips would be so much faster and more potent if they figured out how to work at the quantum level instead of the macro. And yes, even 1nm is macro, compared to the photon's size.
    TempleOrion and Reehahs like this.
  5. hqxt1964

    hqxt1964 TS Enthusiast Posts: 57   +18

    I firmly believe that science can create infinite possibilities!
  6. JaredTheDragon

    JaredTheDragon TS Guru Posts: 621   +397

    Then you don't understand science or infinity. First, this isn't science, but engineering. Testing theories and rounding out postulates is science. This is construction, using electronics. Photons are electricity, or rather, cause it. It was originally and long thought that the electron was the fundamental particle, but it's much smaller than that. Photons are charge.

    Second, nothing can create infinite possibilities. There is always a finite and countable amount of possibilities. For example, it's impossible for you to jump to the moon. You can't even jump into orbit. Try it. Even if "science" (engineering) created hardcore jump-boots, you still couldn't "jump" to the moon without delta-v (acceleration) to get you out of our orbit and into the moon's. So no matter how powerful the boots were, without rockets or some other device you can't jump there. So there's one possibility down, which means that possibilities aren't infinite. Not everything is possible.

    We see this all the time, people misusing "infinite" and even simpler concepts like "exponential". What's the exponent, when people say stuff like that? If they don't know it, it's not exponential. This is all fourth-grade stuff, so I don't understand why we have to break it down here yet again.
    TempleOrion and Bubbajim like this.
  7. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,412   +629

    It's just a figure of speech. I think you are being a bit too literal, IMHO. :)
    TempleOrion, drufense and jobeard like this.
  8. JaredTheDragon

    JaredTheDragon TS Guru Posts: 621   +397

    Being outright wrong isn't a figure of speech. Infinity as a quantity has only one meaning. It's not figurative, it's basic math. What if all the benchmarks on this site suddenly shifted to using such "figurative" mathematics? "Whoa, man! This new Geforce was INFINITELY fast, so buy it now! But the Radeons are ALSO infinitely fast, and exponentially faster than the previous infinities."

    No. That's not how words work. There's nothing figurative about poor writing and math skills.
    TempleOrion likes this.
  9. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,661   +321

    I think it's you who don't understand. Haven't seen a post so full of fail in a while. Though it's possible that you believe in some unproven science, like the theory that space and time are discrete. Otherwise your claims about infinity are obviously wrong.

    Even if you do believe that, your explanation shows a basic logical failing. 'Infinite' doesn't imply in any way that everything is possible. An infinity can be as small as you like, even when talking about infinities of the same cardinality. There are an infinite number of things outside an infinity.
    TempleOrion and meric like this.
  10. JaredTheDragon

    JaredTheDragon TS Guru Posts: 621   +397

    Jesus, are we really arguing about the basic postulates and definitions of simple arithmetic here? Infinity means everything. It's the opposite of nothing. It's the counterpart to something. Anything finite is by definition not infinite. Nothing can be infinitely small, again by definition. Even current physics gives the smallest "something" to the photon, the fundamental quanta. We don't know of anything smaller than that - though there may be something smaller, we've never seen it. There's also a finite limit to size as we grow larger. If anything could be infinitely large, it would have to contain and overlap everything else. So there could BE nothing else. It's not possible, and our very existence proves this.

    The guy was talking about scientific possibilities - and since The Scientific Method is outright designed to eliminate possibilities that are false, wrong, fake, or not accurate descriptions of reality, those possibilities must be finite. Could the Earth be flat? No. It's not possible, so we do not have an infinity of possibilities at all.

    It's like some of you people missed out on the definition of "definition" in school. Stop that.
    TempleOrion likes this.
  11. Bubbajim

    Bubbajim TechSpot Staff Posts: 692   +673

    Well this escalated quickly.

    OT: Cool! Though if this tech relies on converting the incredibly vibrations produced by colliding photons into sound waves, wouldn't even the tiniest of vibrations throw the whole thing off? I get that this is a proof of concept, but hypothetically if one were to type on a keyboard on a desk even remotely near a computer based on this concept, wouldn't the vibrations from each keystroke make the computer go haywire?
  12. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,661   +321

    Apparently we are arguing about basic math, which you don't seem to understand, so I'll try to explain it with a simple example:

    There's an infinite number of natural numbers. For each natural number you can find a larger natural number. For example 101 is larger than 100 and 1,000,000,001 is larger than 1,000,000,000.

    There's also an infinite number of even natural numbers. You can see it in a similar way. 102 is larger than 100, etc.

    These two infinities have the same size. For each even number you can match a natural number that is its half, and for each natural number you can match a double number that is its double. There's no number that's left behind, so these infinite amounts are the same.

    Yet there are a lot of numbers (the odd numbers) which aren't even. In fact, there's an infinity of them, that's just as large.

    So there you have something that's infinite (even numbers) yet doesn't cover something else that's infinite (natural numbers), and of the same cardinality ('size' of infinity).

    I hope that this clarifies things a little. Infinity doesn't means 'everything'. Using it that way shows a basic lack of understanding. Infinity just means that something is uncountable, and things can be uncountable and yet be a subset of something else uncountable.

    Edit: Just to clarify and tie that in, uncountable here just means that you can't count all the things. You can still count through them, as high as you want. That's pretty much the definition of this kind of infinity. Similarly, it's reasonably valid to say that what technology can create is infinite. For every thing you can create something that's more refined, and even if the refinement is small, it would be a new thing. That's of course a less guaranteed infinity than the natural numbers. The way we define something new would be discrete, and coupled with natural limits might serve to make the number of inventions finite. But that's because of human based perception and definition, not necessarily because the 'math of inventions' is limited.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
    TempleOrion likes this.
  13. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,412   +629

    Perhaps the frequencies of the converted sound waves are not in the same ball park as ordinary sound waves. That is, the converted sound waves are sufficiently different and not like ordinary everyday sound and they would need to be decoded (so to speak) to reconvert the sound waves back into data. On the other hand I'm just guessing so I could be totally wrong.
  14. fadingfool

    fadingfool TS Booster Posts: 102   +96

    Many things are infinite but not all infinities are equal. For example the set of natural numbers is infinite but it is a subset of the integers which itself is a subset of rational numbers etc.
    "Smallest" is not really relevant at the sub atomic level as thinking about size implies a physicality inappropriate to the particles concerned (if you think about the double slit experiment trying to put size in there causes all manner of headaches) and at this level mass becomes a question of relativistic mass (what it does to others) and not resting mass (which implies a "size").
    Though to bring this back on subject I don't think I'll hold out for an optical GPU as it might be sometime before it is released....
    TempleOrion likes this.
  15. OortCloud

    OortCloud TS Maniac Posts: 239   +113

    Ah the internet 'experts' are at it again all arguing and pretending they are quantum physicists, bless 'em.
    Bubbajim likes this.
  16. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,661   +321

    Maybe I will. :) I still have a Phenom II X6 1090T and Radeon HD 5750 in my desktop PC. That's what happens when you stop gaming. I'm very tempted to buy Raven Ridge when it arrives, just for fun and for supporting AMD, but considering that RAM prices will likely be even higher than they are now, I might not even do that. I don't want to downgrade from 16GB, like Steve is suggesting for many Upgrade My PC builds.
  17. Solar Flair

    Solar Flair TS Enthusiast Posts: 33   +24

    That is expensive...err...I mean impressive
  18. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,016   +1,560

    kind of getting of the topic - - stick with the engineering :smile:
  19. Enohp15

    Enohp15 TS Rookie

    I think Sheldon found Techspot.
    TempleOrion and erickmendes like this.
  20. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 3,160   +1,413

    No kidding!

    Can you go work on fusion next please? All you have to do is stick to protons together - just do it with the physical particles instead of in the math and BOOM! You've solved the world's energy problems!
    TempleOrion likes this.
  21. Shotgunnner

    Shotgunnner TS Member Posts: 21   +18

    These guys have it all figured out, now if they could just figure out how to move out of mom's basement.
  22. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,412   +629

    Maybe you could comment on the actual article since you seem so knowledgeable instead of just posting an ad hominem comment unless you're just trolling.
    TempleOrion and jobeard like this.
  23. Stiqy

    Stiqy TS Enthusiast Posts: 54   +49

    I'm surprised JaredTheDragon isn't a mod on r/iamverysmart
  24. erickmendes

    erickmendes TS Evangelist Posts: 575   +247

    Things tend to excalate expontentialy in the TechSpot comments section lol...
    90% of the times, the comments section are more interesting than the articles themselves.
    Bringing the popcorn.
  25. GreenNova343

    GreenNova343 TS Guru Posts: 367   +251

    Yes, they already did, many decades ago...

    Except they didn't confuse charge with mass.
    -- Proton mass: 1.672621898 x 10^(-27) kg (call it "Y") (https://physics.nist.gov/cgi-bin/cuu/Value?mp)
    -- Electron mass: 9.10938356 x 10^(-31) kg (call it "Z")(https://physics.nist.gov/cgi-bin/cuu/Value?me)
    -- By simple math, Y = 1,836.1527 Z...or, a Proton masses roughly 1,836 times as much as an electron

    Now, granted, the reference site didn't exactly give their actual charges...but it did give their "charge to mass quotients", allowing their charges to be calculated:
    -- Proton charge-to-mass quotient: 9.578833226 x 10^7 C/kg (https://physics.nist.gov/cgi-bin/cuu/Value?esmp)
    -- Multiplying the charge-to-mass quotient by the previously listed mass for the proton gives us its charge: 1.602176621 x 10^(-19) C
    -- Elementary charge ("e") is roughly 1.602176621 x 10^(-19) C; converting from Coulombs to "e", this means the proton's charge can be rewritten as +1e (https://physics.nist.gov/cgi-bin/cuu/Value?e -- actual figure is 1.6021766208 x 10^(-19), but I think we're probably safe in rounding 1.000000000193336 up to 1 in this case). Note the + there for the positive charge.
    -- Electron charge-to-mass quotient is -1.758820024 x 10^11 C/kg (https://physics.nist.gov/cgi-bin/cuu/Value?esme) -- note the negative sign on the front.
    -- Multiplying that quotient by our electron mass figure gives us its charge as -1.602176621 x 10^(-19) C (again, note the negative sign on the front)
    -- Using the elementary charge factor again, the charge on the electron when converted from Coulombs to elementary charge can be written as.... -1e.

    In short, protons and electrons have different masses, but their charges are opposite in charge and equal in magnitude.

    This is also why basic & advanced chemical reactions are able to occur -- the kinds of chemical reactions, for example, that allow fuels to be burned by vehicles, for heating systems & air conditioners to work, for the basic yet 100% necessary biochemical processes that allow life to exist. Remember, "normal" atoms are technically in balance from a charge perspective; their atomic number is both the number of protons and electrons that they have, & because those numbers are identical the atom has no charge. It's only when the atom gains or loses an electron that the atoms actually have a charge, & become ions. Without that, you wouldn't have basic molecules like water (2 positive ions of Hydrogen combined with a negative ion of Oxygen).

    Photons may be an energy carrier, but they don't carry the positive or negative charge. And photons <> protons.
    TempleOrion likes this.

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