The development of the electronic transistor is easily among the most important events of the last century as it enabled complex electronics to be made much smaller and require less power to operate than vacuum tubes. Now researchers are working to develop another kind of transistor that will, in some instances, replace electronic ones; optical transistors. Researchers at McGill University have recently made an important discovery that may help make optical transistors a reality.
More and more we are seeing fiber optics employed to replace electronic connections, such as in the backbone of the Internet, but while optical connections are faster, they introduce a bottleneck when being received. Without optical transistors the optical signals must be converted to electronic ones that electronic transistors can work with. What the researchers have discovered is that laser pulses can be used to manipulate the quantum mechanical state of quantum dots. Already the researchers have demonstrated basic Boolean logic functionality this way, which is a step towards creating an optical transistor.
While this is certainly an important step towards optical transistors, it is only a step and the results are only a proof of concept. The researchers are now working to apply their results to integrated devices and creating more complicated logic gates.
Source: McGill University