Inha University announced on March 14 that its international joint research team led by Electronic Engineering Professor Nam Dong-wook has succeeded in developing a germanium optical device, key technology to realize “optical computer.”
According to Professor Nam, an optical computer is a device that uses light to transmit information within a computer’s arithmetic and control unit. It is also the next-generation computer that can dramatically increase the data processing speed compared to the existing method of delivering information with electric current.
When using an integrated circuit, which consists of many devices in a chip in order to process complex functions, an optical computer can be microminiaturized and mass produced. Many countries around the world have made large investments in developing a germanium-based optical device, which can be easily used in an integrated circuit, over the years. However, germanium has been considered a material that cannot be developed into an optical device for high-efficiency optical computers since it has a very low light emission efficiency.
Accordingly, Professor Nam has developed an original technology that can significantly improve a light emmission efficiency by stretching germanium nanowire just like rubber band. Also, he said it can emit 10 times strong lights, compared to existing studies, by combining lengthened germanium nanowire with nano-structured mirror, which has a high reflectivity, and reflecting lights from germanium and trapping them in nanowire.
When using a technology that release lights by lengthening nanowire, it is possible to develop an optical device, which can be run by a minimum current, which is hundreds of times lower than existing germanium-based optical devices. It is meaningful in that we are one step closer to the era of optical computer, which can be operated with low electricity.
Since an optical computer needs transmit a lot of information at the same time through many different wavelengths of light, it has required technologies that can easily control the wavelengths of light. As the research team has developed a technology that can freely adjust the length of germanium nanowire, it is now possible to control the wavelengths of light with a subminiature optical device, which emits various wavelengths of light.
Professor Nam said, “It is a meaningful study that demonstrates the possibility of the optical device development, which can be easily combined with an integrated circuit, the biggest hurdle for the realization of optical computers.”
This study was jointly led by Professor Nam and research team of the Department of Electronic Engineering at Stanford University in the U.S.