Just beyond the horizon of practicality, researchers are trying to develop a new generation of chips that would control photons as reliably as today’s chips control electrons. Jelena Vuckovic has already devoted some 20 years to this pursuit for a simple reason: Photonic chips could become the basis for light-based quantum computers that could, in theory, break codes and solve certain types of problems beyond the capabilities of any electronic computer.
In recent months the Stanford electrical engineer has created a prototype photonic chip made of diamond. Now, however, in experiments described in Nature Photonics, she and her team demonstrate how to make a light-based chip from a material nearly as hard as diamond but far less exotic — silicon carbide.
"These are early stage but promising results with a material that is already familiar to industry," Vuckovic said.