If we want our devices to go even faster, we’ll have to drop electrons in favour of photons.
To create the optoelectronic equivalent of a silicon chip the devices that handle the photons – the equivalent of today’s transistor switches – will have to be much smaller and faster.
Dr Ferrera’s innovation has been to construct what is in effect a gate for light analogous to the transistor gates for electrons which are, in their millions, at the heart of our digital devices.
To create such an ultrafast device requires a type of material that can turn opaque or transparent on demand – that behaves like a semiconductor and like glass.
Dr Ferrera believes this new line of research could lead to much faster devices, although much of the processing power is likely to be taken out of pockets and into the cloud.
“The idea in the future could be one of moving the performance of our devices away from our device,” he says.
“And so if we have a new set of photonic components that can process information at ultrafast speed then we can create these data hubs where the actual performances of our devices can be drastically increased.”