Optical Computing : The Future Of Information Processors And Problem Solving?

Pallavi Kumari

30th Aug'22

Computers have revolutionized the world to a point where we cannot imagine our lives without them. We have entered a digital era where most priority is given to enhancing the currently available technologies to make them more advanced as well as accessible. There are a lot of questions going around about which technology will take the throne to be the next big thing. Which technology has the potential to catapult us into the next generation?

Many would agree that the next generation of quantum computing will be optical computing, which operates in parallel rather than in series. This sets them apart from electrical systems where classic computers have significant challenges including light reflection and bandwidth since they often work in series.

It is widely considered that the future of information processors and problem-solving is in the hands of optical computing. We need to be informed about the various technologies that have the potential to make a huge impact on the coming.

Keep reading this article to gain more information on the topic of optical computing and its potential with respect to the coming generations.

Recommended: Which Technologies Have The Most Potential To Impact Your Business?


optical computing


Why Optical Computing?

The central processing unit's (CPU) ability to retrieve and execute instructions depends on the processor clock speed of the computer. The processor clock speed of a computer is also called the computation speed of the computer. The computation speed is a function of the rate of transmission, processing, and calculation of the input data.

A fast-developing technology called quantum computing uses the principles of quantum physics to solve issues that are too complicated for conventional computers. Optical Computing is widely referred to as the future of information processors and problem-solving.

A computer information processor manipulates data to produce comprehensible outputs. The gathering, recording, assembling, retrieval, and transmission of information are all examples of processing. Optical computing can also solve very complex network optimization problems that would take centuries for classical computers.

Optical computing makes use of photons to utilize the wave interference pattern as well as wave propagation to identify outputs. By this method, optical computing enables immediate, error-free calculating. As the data is transferred, it gets processed. Processing does not require stopping movement or information flow, revolutionizing the computer industry.


Okay, But What Is Optical Computing?

The term "optical computing" refers to a computing paradigm that uses photons produced by lasers and diodes for digital computation. It is also commonly referred to as "optoelectronic computing" and "photonic computing." As we have discussed earlier, optical computing utilizes photons to perform various digital calculations to compute various tasks.

Photons can be thought of as tiny packets of light. It has been demonstrated that photons provide us with a larger bandwidth than the electrons used in conventional computing devices. Therefore it is far more favorable if we are able to harness the power of photons. The main purpose of developing the concept of optical computing is to advance the future of information processors and the concepts of problem-solving.

Here, very limited information is accessible because optical computing analyses data as it is moving. This automatically results in providing higher security to the computer system as it is much harder to intercept data for the wrong purposes this way.


How Optical Systems Operate


optical system


The operating principle of an optical computer is identical to that of a conventional computer, except for some sections that conduct functional activities in optical mode. Photons are produced by LEDs, lasers, and a range of other technologies. They can be used to encode data in the same way that electrons can. With the ultimate goal of developing an optical computer, optical transistor design and implementation are now in development. Researchers are experimenting with optical transistors of multiple designs.

Dielectric substances with the capability of serving as polarizers are also used to create optical transistors. While theoretically feasible, optical logic gates present several technical challenges. They would consist of single control and numerous beams that would produce accurate logical output.


What Are The Major Components Used In Optical Computers?

The following are the primary optical components necessary for computation in an optical computer:


1. VCSEL (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Micro Laser)

The VCSEL is a surface-emitting semiconductor Micro Laser Diode that produces light in a vertical direction. It essentially transforms an electrical signal into an optical signal. It is the ideal illustration of a single-dimensional photonic crystal.


2. Spatial Light Modulators

Both the optical beam's intensity and phase can be modulated by spatial light modulators. Due to the fact that they convert the data into a laser beam, they are employed in holographic data storage systems.


3. Optical Logical Gates

In essence, an optical switch that manages light beams is what makes up an optical logic gate. When a gadget transmits light, it is said to be "ON," and when a device blocks light, it is said to be "OFF."


4. Smart Pixels

High-level electronic signal processing optical systems are assisted by smart pixels.


Is There Any Potential For Quantum Computing In The Future?

Important concepts such as algorithmic processes, storage, and data transmission which generally utilize light are all considered to be a major part of optical computing. A particularly appealing future technology that tech-savvy people are looking forward to is the usage of optical computers. So what exactly makes optical computers different from conventional computer systems? Basically what optical computers do differently from conventional computer systems is use packets of light quanta in order to process data instead of using electrical energy. By utilizing this feature that optical computers provide one can easily simplify the wiring of a modern computer. It is also important to note the fact that there are no problems like cable inductance. This also allows optical computers to operate at high speeds. The newest technological method of creating new computers, processors, and other components is being made possible through optical computing.


Recommended - Getting Ready for The Quantum Computer


The Benefits Of Optical Computing

Light has the potential to address various problems with conventional computer systems:

  • Heat is generated as a result of the wires' resistance. Without a heat sensor in a microprocessor to turn it off if it overheats and a fan to cool it down, this heat would dissipate in milliseconds due to its extreme intensity. As a result, a processor's maximum clock speed is constrained. However, difficulties like these can be avoided by using light.

  • A propagation delay is introduced by the unique inductance and capacitance that each wire and transistor have. The delays mount up as billions of transistors are stacked, and they present the chip designers with enormous difficulties. At the clock frequency at which modern microprocessors operate, the inductive effect is extremely potent. It's challenging to accelerate the clock speed any further.

  • As it dissipates into heat and electromagnetic radiation, electricity is an inefficient use of energy. Without a repeater, an optical signal can be sent over long distances. The size, weight, and power requirements of an equivalent electric wire would be substantially greater. The speed and efficiency of an entirely photonic computer might likely surpass those of an electronic one.


 The Drawbacks Of Optical Computing

  • The price of parts for traditional computers is inexpensive primarily because they are produced in factories whose sole purpose is to produce these parts. The cost of optical components is high because there aren't any producers who focus exclusively on the production of these parts.

  • The size of optical components is greater than that of traditional computer components. Optical parts that are small enough to fit together to make a motherboard have not yet been made by researchers.

  • The computer's miniature components must be produced precisely for the device to function properly. As previously stated, this has yet to be accomplished. Even the smallest changes can cause the laser light beams to deviate, which can cause enormous issues. As a result, it is reasonable to conclude that the manufacturing process is highly pricey.

  • The Von Neumann architecture is used to assemble conventional computers. This architecture serves as the foundation for operating systems and application software. The parallelism of the optical computing system, however, necessitates a new architecture for its construction. Operating systems like Microsoft Windows could consequently perform poorly or perhaps cease to function altogether.



Although the subject of photonics and optical computing has advanced significantly in the twenty-first century, there are still very few documented applications. In order to operate effectively and more quickly than conventional computer systems, optical computing is where quantum computing is headed in the future. Future computers may not have screens; instead, information would be displayed as a hologram in the air, directly above the keyboard.

Researchers and industry professionals working together have enabled the development of this kind of technology. Even though dozens of strategies are being developed in anticipation of conventional electronic computing hitting physical limits, optical computing is one of those wild-card technologies, much like quantum computing.

It is unclear if it will be successful in the long run. We can just wait and observe right now unless you're developing the technology yourself.


We at OpenGrowth, are committed to keeping you updated with the best content on the latest trendy topics from any major field. Also, both your feedback and suggestions are valuable to us. Do share them in the comment section below.


Contributor : Nitish Chauhan

Nitish is a curious chef who loves to bake cupcakes of words. Nitish loves serving people a delicious cuisine of wisdom and knowledge, often adorned by sweet humor and an engaging tone. His objective is to serve his readers with the best possible content on their plate while also ensuring their appetite for seeking continues to proliferate. 

Pallavi is fond of exploring different industries in writing genres and trends on Instagram.

When she is not writing, she is thinking about sustainability and making her surrounding a better place.



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