Optical computers run a million times faster than conventional computers, study reveals

Traditional computer's input signals run at a snail's pace compared to light-generated input signals.
Stephen Vicinanza
Computers may run on light
Computers may run on light

jiefeng jiang/iStock 

The processors in a computer are made up of logic gates, which run binary routines, the actual 1 and 0's of computer calculation. These are called Boolean functions. In traditional computer processors, this is done electronically. Researchers have discovered a way to run light-based logic gates, which are a million times faster than conventional electronic logic gates.

This was revealed in a study at AALTO University and published in the journal Science Advances.

Next generation computing needs

In order to meet next generation data processing needs, like AI dataset evaluation, and algorithm inference sourcing, the logic gates in computing need to run much faster.

Much of the development encouraging faster process times is from the enormous datasets from the Internet of Things. The ever increasing amounts of data from sensor sources and the algorithms associated with collecting, evaluating and then making inferences from the data need compute speeds many times what they are now.

New optical logic gates

A new optic chirality logic gates designed and developed by a team of scientists at AALTO University are being run at about a million times faster than previous logic gates.

This extremely fast processing uses circularly polarized light instead of an electrical signal. The process depends a great deal on the handedness of the circularly polarized beam, through a crystal material that is sensitive to the beam of light.

The handedness determine the logic gate

The handedness of a light beam is determined by the shape of the crystal it is passing through. It bends either to one side or the other, right handed or left handed. In optic chirality logic gates, the direction of the beam's handedness, right or left, determines the logic function. The main building block for optical logic gates is one type of handedness (XNOR). From there all other logic gates are built by adding filters.

Optical computers run a million times faster than conventional computers, study reveals
Optic process in Chirality Logic Gates

Simultaneous task functions

It was also discovered that a single computer device can house all the chirality logic gates. There could be a simultaneous task functionality, which an electronic logic gate device can not do. These tasks for the optical logic gates would run in parallel.

Building better circuits

These multi-operation logic gates are a further improvement over the electronic logic gates, because they could lead to multifunction logic circuits, that are more advanced and complex then those available today.


The ever-growing demand for faster and more efficient data transfer and processing has brought optical computation strategies to the forefront of research in next-generation computing. Here, we report a universal computing approach with the chirality degree of freedom. By exploiting the crystal symmetry–enabled well-known chiral selection rules, we demonstrate the viability of the concept in bulk silica crystals and atomically thin semiconductors and create ultrafast (<100-fs) all-optical chirality logic gates (XNOR, NOR, AND, XOR, OR, and NAND) and a half adder. We also validate the unique advantages of chirality gates by realizing multiple gates with simultaneous operation in a single device and electrical control. Our first demonstrations of logic gates using chiral selection rules suggest that optical chirality could provide a powerful degree of freedom for future optical computing.

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