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Laser on Silicon

A new glass glue opens the path to optical computing

2 min read

Scientists at Intel and at the Univer­sity of California, Santa Barbara, have managed to combine an indium-­phosphide light emitter and a silicon chip to produce a hybrid laser that, years from now, could lead to cheap terabit-per-second connections within and around computers.

Lasers and other optoelectronic devices carry billions of bits through our telecommunications networks every second. But the materials they’re made from, exotic semiconductors such as indium phosphide, and the costly manufacturing techniques involved in their production have kept such gigabit-per-second connections largely confined to long-haul telecommunications. By integrating optoelectronic devices on silicon chips, Intel and other companies, notably Luxtera, in Carlsbad, Calif., and STMicroelectronics, in Geneva, hope to make optoelectronic bandwidths affordable enough for your average notebook computer.

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The Future of Deep Learning Is Photonic

Computing with light could slash the energy needs of neural networks

10 min read
Image of a computer rendering.

This computer rendering depicts the pattern on a photonic chip that the author and his colleagues have devised for performing neural-network calculations using light.

Alexander Sludds

Think of the many tasks to which computers are being applied that in the not-so-distant past required human intuition. Computers routinely identify objects in images, transcribe speech, translate between languages, diagnose medical conditions, play complex games, and drive cars.

The technique that has empowered these stunning developments is called deep learning, a term that refers to mathematical models known as artificial neural networks. Deep learning is a subfield of machine learning, a branch of computer science based on fitting complex models to data.

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