"OPTICAL: Flip-flops push forward era of all-optical computing"
Optical flip-flops could enable a new breed of all-optical chips, from communications switches to full-fledged optical computers, according to the Cobra Research Institute at Eindhoven (Netherlands) University of Technology. Optical flip-flops using light, instead of electrons, to store, process and move data around could eliminate the need for expensive optical-to-electronic-to-optical conversions. Today most semiconductor lasers are on discrete chips, but the Cobra Research Institute claims that the answer may be its ring lasers, fabricated in indium gallium arsenide phosphide. According to the researchers, ring lasers could enable optical signals' use not only for communications but also for memory and processing, thanks to a configuration that enables bistable states � an optical flip-flop. "Two ring lasers are required to form the bistable system," said Cobra researcher Martin Hill. He performed the work with Meint Smit, head of the Opto-Electronic Devices group at the Eindhoven university, and Harm Dorren, for whom Hill works at the Electro-Optical Communications group at Cobra.