Monday, November 24, 2008

Advantages of Optical Computing

All of the follwing are positive aspects of optical computers.

Higher performance

Although optical computers are still in their early stages and cannot yet be compared to conventional computers, it still is safe to say that they have a higher processing speed. There are two reason for this. First, as discussed previously, metallic wires reduce the transmission speed. Second, in the seminar (referenced further down), the author states that nothing is faster than the speed of light.

Higher parallelism

This is achieved in two ways:

  1. "Increase the amount of data which is sent through bus systems and computed in the CPU at each time." (

  2. Data paths can cross without interference.

Less consumption

Modern day computers consume a lot of energy. In the seminar, the speaker states that computers require over 80 watts in idle state, 120 watts during normal use and 250 in performance mode and all of this energy is not used efficiently. Here is a calculation example:

"A computer runs every day around eight hours in normal use and one kilowatt hour costs 0,15 €. That means that the CPU consumes around 350 kilowatt hours a year. Consequently 53 € of energy costs are generated only by the CPU. All components of a loaded high performance PC (without monitor and periphery) consume within the same time even 1100 kilowatt hours (165 €)."

Example retreived from:

Less heat is released

As previously mentionned, optical computers function with the use of lasers. These do not radiate much heat, depending on the application. Moreover, compared to conventional computers, optical computers do not require a processor airing therefore, they could be smaller and do not need free space for airing. As a consequence, the probability of a fire occuring due to overheating are significantly reduced.

Less noise

Conventional computers often produce a lot of noise due to the rotating fan. Because optical computers do not have fans for airing, the noise factor is also reduced significantly.

More flexibility in layout

Conventional computers are usually built in the form of a rectangular box (or in the form of a laptop). The reason for this is the speed of the electric connections. "Using optical components the distance of communication does not matter. Once the signal is in an optical fiber it does not matter whether the signal runs 1 meter or 1000 meters. Because of the low damping long-range communication is possible. Still the data rate is very high and there is no crosstalk.
So the optical computer technology has the potential to change the shape and layout of computers fundamentally. The components of one computer can be spread across a car, a building or even a city with almost no loss in performance. Consequently the server/client and the peer-to-peer architectures could be advanced. Many clients, terminals or even single components can be connected optically and consequently allow higher ranges." (

Reduced loss in communication

Nowadays, communication is often transmitted through electric wires or radio frequency thus reducing the range in the communocatio process. Optical computers use optical wires to transmit data. These have a higher bandwith therefore which leads to higher performance.


This information was retreived from a seminar on Information Technology and its trends:

Other sources include:,9171,997259,00.html

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