(Optical computing) - '..the analogue domain..'

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'..light years ahead of the electronic analogue processors of the past.'

<blockquote>'Both Optalysys' and Engheta's teams focus on doing as much computing as possible in the analogue domain before turning it into electrical signals for further processing, thus keeping all the data management within a highly parallel processing environment. Being able to change the function of the system components or materials on demand is also key.

The perennial problem of analogue systems is noise. Engheta's team does not know the effect of local quantum fluctuations or camera pixel noise at this stage but plans to study it later. Dr New points out that Optalysys' approach minimises noise. "We believe that the relatively large pixel sizes in our system will lead to less noise overall as small fluctuations will have less of an effect," he says.

Dr New believes that the two approaches to optical information processing may be complementary in the long term: "The metamaterial technology, from what I have seen, could act as the filters in our system."

If its initial research trials on genomics and weather forecasting simulations are successful, Optalysys hopes to extend optical processing to other linear algebra tasks, such as matrix inversion, that are used in computational physics, science and engineering. Dr Andy Lowe, Optalysys' applications developer says: "If successful, optical processing will give us a boost in processing power as well as the ability to monitor very complex simulations way beyond our present abilities, as they proceed, monitoring hundreds of millions of data points in real time."

Mainstream uses are possible. Optalysys has proposed an online web interface to an optical processor, in effect a kind 'mini' Cloud for 'speed of light' data-mining. If the metamaterial idea takes shape, direct image processing inside cameras could have mass market potential. "Second differentiation is interesting because it can pick up the edges in images. Imagine, you could put this slab into the focal plane array of your camera," suggests Engheta.

Even though they are at the early stages of development, both approaches are light years ahead of the electronic analogue processors of the past.'

- Christine Evans-Pughe, Photonic computers promise energy-efficient supercomputers, December 15, 2014</blockquote>


<blockquote>'..2020 .. exascale speed-of-light optical computer on your desk..'

Optical computing</blockquote>