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Nat Commun. 2017 Nov 2;8(1):1256. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-01506-3.

Calculating with light using a chip-scale all-optical abacus.

Author information

1
Institute of Physics, University of Muenster, Heisenbergstr. 11, 48149, Muenster, Germany.
2
Department of Materials, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PH, UK.
3
Department of Engineering, University of Exeter, Exeter, EX4 QF, UK.
4
Institute of Physics, University of Muenster, Heisenbergstr. 11, 48149, Muenster, Germany. wolfram.pernice@uni-muenster.de.

Abstract

Machines that simultaneously process and store multistate data at one and the same location can provide a new class of fast, powerful and efficient general-purpose computers. We demonstrate the central element of an all-optical calculator, a photonic abacus, which provides multistate compute-and-store operation by integrating functional phase-change materials with nanophotonic chips. With picosecond optical pulses we perform the fundamental arithmetic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, including a carryover into multiple cells. This basic processing unit is embedded into a scalable phase-change photonic network and addressed optically through a two-pulse random access scheme. Our framework provides first steps towards light-based non-von Neumann arithmetic.

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