Mantis Shrimp's Eyes Hold Key to New Optics

Imitating the most complex vision system in the animal world could improve DVDs and CDs, scientists say

3 min read

27 October 2009—Scientists have discovered the mechanism behind the eyes of the only animal that can detect a certain kind of polarized light: the mantis shrimp, native to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Optical devices can manipulate the polarization of light for research and for commercial products like CD and DVD players and digital cameras. However, these devices can't manipulate light nearly as well as the mantis shrimp can, says biologist Nicholas Roberts of the University of Bristol, in England. Roberts, together with scientists at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the University of Queensland, Australia, reported the finding yesterday in the journal Nature Photonics.

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.

Avicena

If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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