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What is Optical Computing?

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Optical computing is a computing technology in the research and theory stage. The idea would be to make a computer that relies entirely on light (photons) instead of electricity (electrons) to do computing. The appeal of optical computers is limited, because with short distances, they require more power than electronic computers to do the same computation. Still, optical computing may allow the construction of computers physically impossible using electronics. Optical computing is still in the early stages of development -- only a few very limited prototypes have currently been constructed in the lab. An optical computer primarily uses lasers to send signals. Unfortunately, lasers can't interact directly with one another in any meaningful way, so performing computations requires an intermediary in the form of matter somehow. Attempts to make "optical transistors" have tended to revolve around materials that re-emit light selectively in response to the intensity of the incoming light. ... more
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