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Scientists set to replace electricity with light pulses for superfast computing

The 21st century is the century which is at the peak of technological revolution. This age revolves around the need for data and analyzing data for the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Multinational companies around the globe are building data centres across continents which have the ability to store and transfer the huge amount of data which the companies receive every day.

Traditionally, data was transferred using electricity but a new method is created by scientists which enable data to be transferred using light pulses. Data centres require a lot of electricity and are hungry for more power, however, the scientists have now developed a technique that uses magnets to control and record computer data which consumes no electricity.

Data centres account for 2-5% of the global power consumption as they need to be maintained at an optimum temperature. Microsoft has already submerged its data centres below in the sea in efforts to reduce power consumption. Originally in hard drives, the data is encoded in 1s and 0s, by the spin of the magnetic hard drives. The magnetic head uses electricity to decode it back which uses a lot of electricity.


An international team have published in Nature that they have replaced electricity by short pulses of light, the duration of these pulses are close to one trillionth of a second. The new method is super efficient and at the same time reduces power consumption to very little. It involves pulsing a magnet at ultra short light bursts at frequencies in the infrared range. It is called the tetra hertz but even the strongest source of tetra hertz light did not provide strong enough pulses to switch the orientation of light. It was made possible due to the coupling between the spins and the tetra hertz electric field.

Scientists put up antennas on top of the magnets to concentrate and enhance the effect of light, a strong electric field was applied which navigated the magnetization in one trillionth of a second to the new orientation which is optimum. This process does not lead to an increase in temperature and thus saves a lot of energy that is spent on the cooling of data centres.

Lancaster University intends to carry out more research using the new ultrafast laser and accelerators which are able to generate intense pulses of light to allow switching magnets. The main significance of this method is the drastic reduction in the cost of operation due to lower energy consumption. It is expected that future energy storage devices are predicted to heavily use and depend on this remarkable breakthrough in technology.

About the author: Kalpit Veerwal
Kalpit Veerwal is a second year Computer Science undergraduate at IIT Bombay. He is well known for being the only person to score 360/360 in JEE (Main). He is registered in the Limca Book of Records for the same. A blogger in his free time, he has also secured top ranks in various exams held in India and the world.

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