A Quantum Leap For Photonics

Highly integrated optical circuits could transform networks

5 min read

The conversion of data from optical to electrical and that from electrical to optical are key functions in optical communications. Obviously, optical data can go down optical fibers only in optical form, but processing it--for example, to remove accumulated noise or to add or drop data streams--requires digitized electrical pulses.

Until now, this conversion and reconversion process has been complicated and costly because of the many components needed to do the job. But new technology from Infinera Corp., a start-up in Sunnyvale, Calif., promises to make the transformations simple and inexpensive by combining more than 50 optical components--all the elements needed to convert as many as 10 optical data streams from light to electrons and back to light again--onto just two photonic ICs.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

The Ultimate Transistor Timeline

The transistor’s amazing evolution from point contacts to quantum tunnels

1 min read
A chart showing the timeline of when a transistor was invented and when it was commercialized.

Even as the initial sales receipts for the first transistors to hit the market were being tallied up in 1948, the next generation of transistors had already been invented (see “The First Transistor and How it Worked.”) Since then, engineers have reinvented the transistor over and over again, raiding condensed-matter physics for anything that might offer even the possibility of turning a small signal into a larger one.

Keep Reading ↓Show less