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Ever-Smaller Lasers Pave the Way for Data Highways Made of Light

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Science  14 May 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5980, pp. 810-811
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5980.810

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The dream of optical computing—replacing electronic devices with much faster ones based on light—has tantalized scientists for generations. Nowadays, computer circuitry has grown too complex to be replaced wholesale. Instead, researchers talk about using lasers and other optical components as high-speed data highways between specialized electronic processors on chips. So far, lasers and other optical components have been far too big to make this integration possible. But the gap is narrowing. In recent years, researchers around the world have married traditional optical materials with metals to create lasers a mere tens of nanometers thick. Just last month, two groups reported making lasers ultrasmall in all three dimensions.