IBM scientists have developed a system to slow down the speed of light, and potentially enable it to be used as an optical power source to drive components in a PC.
Such an optical alternative would greatly increase the performance of machines without using expensive components.
IBM scientists have created a tiny device to slow light down to less than 1/300th of its usual speed, by directing it down a channel of perforated silicon called a "photonic crystal waveguide".
The unique design of the device allows the light's speed to be varied over a wide range simply by applying an electrical voltage to the waveguide.
IBM said the device's small size, use of standard semi-conductor materials, and ability to more closely control this "slow light", could make the technology useful for building ultra-compact optical communications circuits that are practical for integration into computer systems.
IBM said the ultimate goal of this project is to develop a technology for on-chip integration of ultra-compact nanophotonic circuits for manipulating the light signals. This is similar to the way electrical signals are manipulated in computer chips.
IBM researchers said integration of optical devices at the chip scale could significantly reduce the cost of optical components.
Eventually the development of the nanophotonic technology compatible with the CMos fabrication line could result in cheap mass production of densely integrated opto-electronic superchips, comprising both photonic and electronic circuitry, IBM said.