The researchers built a plenoptic miniature calculator

Our daily life relies on electronic processors that perform basic arithmetic, logic, and control operations, making it possible to move from mobile phones to smart TVs. However, current technologies are approaching their limits, and researchers around the world are looking for next-generation computing technologies.

In a paper they published on Science Advances (“Nanowire network-based multifunctional all-optical logic gates”), an interdisciplinary research team at Aalto University presented a new type of nanometer-based How the nanostructure of the line enables light to perform logic functions, thereby simplifying addition and subtraction. This study demonstrates for the first time a nanoscale all-optical logic circuit that provides an important step toward true optical computing.

 The researchers built a plenoptic micro-calculator

All-optical wavelengths at different polarized light inputs switch. The color marked graphic corresponds to the above input. (Source: Aalto University)

“For example, we were able to perform binary calculations and show how this nanostructure performs these functions like a simple micro-calculator – except that no electricity is used Nanostructures use only light in their operations,” said Dr. Henri Jussila, who completed his postdoctoral degree at Aalto University.

To build nanostructures, the team used a new approach to assemble two different semiconductor nanowires, indium phosphide and aluminum gallium arsenide. Nanowires are shorter and exponentially thinner than human hair, with a unique one-dimensional structure that allows them to function like nanometer-sized antennas.

“We used a simple combing technique that resembles the way people comb their hair in the morning to assemble these nanostructures,” explains Jussila.

With this mechanical carding method, nanowires can be aligned in any particular direction, unlike the randomly arranged nanowires that are commonly used. However, repetition is the key to ideal alignment of the antenna.

“The method of repetitive combing allows us to build nanostructured integrated devices in which two different types of nanowires are perpendicular to each other,” said Professor Zhipei Sun, head of the photonics group at Aalto University.

“One-dimensional and crossbar structures are at the core of our calculations because they allow input light to interact with indium phosphide or aluminum gallium arsenide nanowires,” Dr He Yang added.

In this case, the linearly polarized light direction and its wavelength are related to the input, and the nanowires interact with or do not interact with the input light. This is similar in practice to how antennas used in older radio receivers work; they only receive signals when pointing in the best direction, usually up. Due to the different responses of different nanomaterials, the light output of the fabricated nanowire structure can be switched with different wavelengths and light directions to successfully implement logic operations.

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