Breakthrough could make smartphones and laptops 1,000 times faster

Breakthrough could make smartphones and laptops 1,000 times faster

Summary: Researchers at University of Pittsburgh have generated a frequency comb (a slice of spectrum) with more than 100 terahertz bandwidth, eclipsing today's devices that operate in the gigahertz frequency region.


A team of scientists report a communications breakthrough that they say could be used to speed up electronic devices by a factor of one thousand.

The University of Pittsburgh team claims to have successfully generated a frequency comb, which entails dividing a single color of light into a series of evenly spaced spectral lines for a variety of uses, that spans more than 100 terahertz (THz, or 1 trillion cycles per second) bandwidth.

Terahertz radiation is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum between infrared and microwave light.

Hrvoje Petek, a professor of physics and chemistry at Pitt, said that this has been long-awaited discovery in the field. Petek and his team generated the all-optical frequency comb by investigating the optical properties of a silicon crystal and "exciting a coherent collective of atomic motions in a semiconductor silicon crystal" with an intense laser pulse.

First, they observed that the amount of reflected light oscillates at 15.6 THz, the highest mechanical frequency of atoms within a silicon lattice. The oscillation then caused additional changes in the absorption and reflection of light, multiplying the fundamental oscillation frequency by up to seven times, which then generated the comb of frequencies extending beyond 100 THz.

"Although we expected to see the oscillation at 15.6 THz, we did not realize that its excitation could change the properties of silicon in such dramatic fashion," says Petek. "The discovery was both the result of developing unique instrumentation and incisive analysis by the team members."

According to a news release, the team is now investigating the coherent oscillation of electrons, which could further extend the ability of harnessing light-matter interactions from the terahertz- to the petahertz-frequency range. Petahertz frequencies scale up to 1 quadrillion hertz.

The research is published in Nature Photonics and is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Topics: Laptops, CXO, Hardware, Mobility, Processors, Smartphones, IT Employment

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  • ummm

    Umm, this is interesting, but creating 100 THz radiation is a far, far cry from creating a 100 THz microprocessor. I think he's being overly optimistic.
    • You misunderstand

      He is not talking about microprocessors, but instead about transmission and reception of photonic energy.
      • In a way, they're related...

        Given the intel is putting a lot of bank into optical multiplexers.
      • comms, not processors.



        despite @Tea.Rollins comment, the use of the term "bandwidth" makes it clear that he is after communications, rather than switching, speed.

        So the title of this article

        "Breakthrough could make smartphones and laptops 1,000 times faster"

        is nonsense.

        Though it may one day lead to a faster internet connection.
        Henry 3 Dogg
    • They can multiplex a lot of channels over that link

      = more customers.
  • Smartphones and laptops don't benefit

    Smartphones and laptops don't use optical frequency combs.
    The headline is ridiculous.
    (But I don't think the author is to blame for that, CobraA1)
    Quantum computing might benefit.
    • Quantum computing has nothing to do with this.

  • The idea is to speed up communications bandwidth, not processors

    Current radio technology could eventually get replaced with THz devices, which would boost bandwidth between network devices. THz emissions are generally line-of-sight, but do provide penetration of non-conducting materials (plastic, wood, etc.) so they could be used in an office or home environment.

    Imagine being able to exhaust your AT&T bandwidth cap in 1 millisecond ...
    terry flores
    • You already can!

      It's called FIOS or Docsis 3.0!
  • It would enable high-availability systems and SANs over multiple sites

    That would bypass the need for idle standby systems for when disasters occur, with its typical delays in the business decision process.
  • Teraherz communication

    It's important not to miss the point here. The fact is that a, "breakthrough has occured here. For the first time a system of information transmission has operated successfully in, The Terahertz Range, which had not been done before, at least coherently. This lends to the possibility of not only transferring information much faster, but also of a microprocessor operating, either optically or, with more research/development, electron- ically, the two are very closely related in application. Remember, this was done using a, silicon, crystal, get it. Think Silicon, microprocessors, electrons.
  • Except For

    How will the signal pass through walls? Isn't that basically a line of sight frequency?
    Bob Hamilton, Expert
  • In other news...

    ...funding for research like this from the government org NSF would likely be terminated under President Ron Paul. So, hey, libertarians should be required to use all OLD technology, henceforth...