Light moves faster than electrons, requires less energy than electrons, and can carry more information than electrons. So why do we still use electrons for computers? Because we do not have the technology to take full advantage of photons, but that is changing thanks to researchers at Rice University.
Part of the difficulty of dealing with light is that silicon components will not interact with all frequencies of light, so fabrication of advanced photonics is difficult. The new antenna from Rice though is able to work with a wide range of frequencies and is compatible with modern CMOS fabrication technology. The device, a spatial light modulator (SLM), consists of nanoscale ribs in a cavity between two electrodes and doped silicon slabs. By introducing perturbations to the ribs, outside light will couple with the cavity allowing the device to manipulate the waves. Switching an electric field serves to turn the transmission of the light on and off and can be done at much higher speeds than similar, modern devices can achieve.
The speed of the device is high enough that a single-pixel camera being developed at Rice, which initially took 8 hours to complete one image, would be capable of recording real-time video. This level of speed and ease of fabrication has the researchers very keen on finding ways to use this device for computing and other uses.