Light-based information-processing chips could provide a huge improvement in processing power and speed over today’s electronics, but one of the challenges to their development is creating optically-controlled switches that are fast. A new trick for allowing one light signal to control another in a semiconducting material now pushes switching times from around a picosecond (10−12 seconds) to as much as 100 times faster in a device that can be readily integrated onto a chip . The rapid switching is achieved by exploiting a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC)—a quantum state famous for exotic behavior in superconductors and cold gases—in a new way. The work paves the way to extremely high-frequency optical information technologies.
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