New optical memory cell achieves record data-storage density

An important step toward an all-optical computer.

Optica research team
Optica research team

In a new study, scientists have created a device that could enable computers that use optics and electrical signals to interact with data. This technique has the potential to save more optical data in a smaller space than was before possible on-chip.

Instead of utilizing electrical signs to store information in one of two states – a zero or one – like the today’s PCs, the optical memory cell uses light to store data. The scientists exhibited optical memory with in excess of 32 states, or levels, the equal 5 bits. This is a critical advance toward an all-optical computer, a long haul objective of many research bunches in this field.

Research team leader Harish Bhaskaran from Oxford University’s Department of Materials said: “Optical fibers bring light-encoded data to our homes and offices, but that information is transformed to electronic signals once inside computers. By bringing the speed of light-based data transmission to the circuit boards that run computers, our all-optical memory could enable a hybrid computer chip that interacts with data both optically and electrically.”

The optical memory cell utilizes light to encode data in a phase change material, a class of materials used to make re-writable CDs and DVDs. A laser warms heats parts of a phase change material, which makes it switch between states where every all the atoms are ordered or disordered. Since these two states display diverse optical files of refraction, the information can be perused utilizing light.

Phase change materials can store information for a while on the grounds that they stay in the disordered or ordered state until enlightened again with the explicit sort of laser light initially used to compose the information. Blending distinctive proportions of requested and disarranged states in an area of the material enables data to be put away in a continuum of levels rather than only zero and a one as in customary electronic memory.

Bhaskaran said, “This accomplishment required understanding the interaction between the light and the material perfectly and then sending exactly the right sort of laser pulse necessary to achieve each level. We solved an extraordinarily difficult problem.”

“The new technique could help overcome one of the bottlenecks limiting the speed of today’s computers: the link between the processor and the memory. A lot of work has gone into improving the communication between these two units using fiber optics. However, linking these two units optically still requires expensive electro-optical conversions at both ends. Our memory cell could be used in a hybrid optical-electrical setup to cut the need for that conversion on the memory side by allowing data to be stored and retrieved optically.”

Scientists further want to integrate various memory cells and independently program them, which would be required to make a working memory chip for a computer. The examination group has worked intimately with Oxford University Innovation, the University’s innovation arm, to create commercial openings emerging from their exploration on photonic memory cells.

The specialists state that they would already be able to imitate the device greatly well however should grow light signal processing methods to incorporate various optical memory cells.

In Optica, The Optical Society’s journal for high impact research, the scientists describe their new technique for all-optical data storage, which could help meet the growing need for more computer data storage.