April 22, 2008, Salt Lake City, UT--University of Utah engineers took an early step toward building superfast computers that run on far-infrared light: They made the equivalent of wires that carried and bent this form of light, also known as terahertz radiation.
"We have taken a first step to making circuits that can harness or guide terahertz radiation," says Ajay Nahata, study leader and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. "Eventually - in a minimum of 10 years - this will allow the development of superfast circuits, computers and communications." In a study to be published Friday, April 18 in the online journal Optics Express, Nahata and colleagues report they designed stainless steel foil sheets with patterns of perforations that successfully served as wire-like waveguides to transmit, bend, split or combine terahertz radiation.
With so much of the spectrum clogged by existing communications, engineers would like to harness terahertz frequencies for communication, much faster computing, and even for anti-terrorism scanners and sensors able to detect biological, chemical or other weapons. Nahata says the new study is relevant mainly to computers that would use terahertz radiation to run at speeds much faster than current computers.
"Electronic circuits today work at gigahertz frequencies - billions of cycles per second," Nahata says. "What people would like to do is develop capabilities to transport and manipulate data at terahertz frequencies [trillions of hertz]. It's a speed issue. People want to be able to transfer data at higher speeds. People would like to download a movie in a few seconds."
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