For you to read visit this or many other websites, the data of the sites has to be transmitted to you and likely somewhere along its trip, it was sent as photons. As photons travel faster than electrons and bring other useful properties to the table, researchers are working to develop technologies for optical computers. One challenge for this work is that silicon, a primary component of modern electronic computers, does not work well with light, but researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found a way to change that.
Some semiconductors react well with light, readily producing and absorbing photons, but others, including silicon, generate a fair amount of heat in either process, and that wastes energy. Doping silicon can improve its optical performance, but typically this reduces its electronic performance and the light produced has too long of wavelengths. To combat these issues, the researchers turned to plasmonics by adding a layer of glass around a silicon nanowire and mostly wrapping the glass in silver. This design creates plasmonic nanocavities that capture and hold electromagnetic energy, creating photons of white light.
By making it possible for silicon to emit visible light, components for optical computers can be made much simpler, as external light sources will not be needed. Importantly this design works with silicon nanowires from 20 nm to 100 nm, which is compatible with modern silicon fabrication techniques.
Source: University of Pennsylvania