Encyclopedia of Complexity and Systems Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Robert A. Meyers

Optical Computing

  • Thomas J. Naughton
  • Damien Woods
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27737-5_377-3

Definition of the Subject

An optical computer is a physical information processing device that uses photons to transport data from one memory location to another and processes the data while it is in this form. In contrast, a conventional digital electronic computer uses electric fields (traveling along conductive paths) for this task. The optical data paths in an optical computer are effected by refraction (such as the action of a lens) or reflection (such as the action of a mirror). A principal advantage of an optical data path over an electrical data path is that optical data paths can intersect and even completely overlap without corrupting the data in either path. Optical computers make use of this property to efficiently transform the optically encoded data from one representation to another, for example, to shuffle or reverse the order of an array of parallel paths or to convolve the data in several arrays of parallel paths. Other advantages of optical computers include inherent...


Turing Machine Optical Computer Optical Computing Optical Algorithm Optical Information Processing 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceNational University of IrelandMaynooth County KildareIreland
  2. 2.Computer ScienceCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA