New photonic materials could enable ultrafast light-based computing

An illustration of an advanced computer algorithm artist

The new University of Central Florida photonic material overcomes the shortcomings of current topological designs, which provide fewer features and control. The new material also allows longer propagation lengths of information packets by reducing power loss.

Photonic materials are being developed by researchers to allow powerful and efficient photonic computing

Researchers at University of Central Florida It is developing new photonic materials that could one day be used to enable ultrafast, low-power light-based computing. The unique material referred to as topological insulators, is like wires flipped inside out, with the insulation on the inside and current flowing along the outside.

In order to avoid the overheating problem that smaller circuits face today, topological insulators can be incorporated into circuit designs to enable more processing power to be packed into a given area without heat generation.

The researchers’ latest study was published April 28 in the journal nature materials, an entirely new process for creating materials that uses a unique honeycomb lattice structure. The interconnected pattern in the shape of a honeycomb was laser etched onto a piece of silica, a material often used to create optical circuits by researchers.

The design nodes enabled the researchers to regulate the current without bending or stretching the optical wires, which is necessary to direct the flow of light and thus information in the circuit.

The new photonic material overcomes the shortcomings of contemporary topological designs that provided fewer features and control while supporting longer propagation lengths of information packets by reducing power loss.

The researchers envision that the new design approach introduced by the dichotomous topological insulators will lead to a move away from traditional modulation techniques, bringing the light-based computing technology closer to reality.

Topological insulators can someday lead to[{” attribute=””>quantum computing as their features could be used to protect and harness fragile quantum information bits, thus allowing processing power hundreds of millions of times faster than today’s conventional computers. The researchers confirmed their findings using advanced imaging techniques and numerical simulations.

“Bimorphic topological insulators introduce a new paradigm shift in the design of photonic circuitry by enabling secure transport of light packets with minimal losses,” says Georgios Pyrialakos, a postdoctoral researcher with UCF’s College of Optics and Photonics and the study’s lead author.

The next steps for the research include the incorporation of nonlinear materials into the lattice that could enable the active control of topological regions, thus creating custom pathways for light packets, says Demetrios Christodoulides, a professor in UCF’s College of Optics and Photonics and study co-author.

The research was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; the Office of Naval Research Multidisciplinary University Initiative; the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Multidisciplinary University Initiative; the U.S. National Science Foundation; The Simons Foundation’s Mathematics and Physical Sciences division; the W. M. Keck Foundation; the US–Israel Binational Science Foundation; U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory; the Deutsche Forschungsgemein-schaft; and the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen and Halbach Foundation.

Study authors also included Julius Beck, Matthias Heinrich, and Lukas J. Maczewsky with the University of Rostock; Mercedeh Khajavikhan with the University of Southern California; and Alexander Szameit with the University of Rostock.

Christodoulides received his doctorate in optics and photonics from Johns Hopkins University and joined UCF in 2002. Pyrialakos received his doctorate in optics and photonics from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki – Greece and joined UCF in 2020.

Reference: “Bimorphic Floquet topological insulators” by Georgios G. Pyrialakos, Julius Beck, Matthias Heinrich, Lukas J. Maczewsky, Nikolaos V. Kantartzis, Mercedeh Khajavikhan, Alexander Szameit, and Demetrios N. Christodoulides, 28 April 2022, Nature Materials.
DOI: 10.1038/s41563-022-01238-w