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Illinois researchers create fastest LED ever; aid computing efficiency

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created the fastest LED ever, setting a a new record with a signal-processing modulation speed of 4.3 gigahertz, breaking the previous record of 1.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created the fastest LED ever, setting a a new record with a signal-processing modulation speed of 4.3 gigahertz, breaking the previous record of 1.7 GHz.

Why is this important? Engineering professor Nick Holonyak Jr. -- who  invented the LED, or light-emitting diode, in 1962 -- explained the advancement to Discovery's Alyssa Danigelis:

"Computer and data processing, because of speed and massive issues of data processing, are beginning to choke," Holonyak told Danigelis via email. "All of this is taking too much energy."

In other words: cheaper, faster, and more energy-efficient computing, and a step in the direction of bringing supercomputers down to briefcase size.

So how did they do it?

With help from engineering professor Milton Feng and researchers from Malaysia, Holynak created what they call a "tilted-charge light-emitting diode." By incorporating transistor technology into an LED, the researchers managed an astounding 4.3 GHz. With some "tweaks," the researchers achieved 7 GHz.

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