Photonic Computers (Terra Futura)

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A photonic computer was a type of computer that instead of electrons used photons. The result was a smaller, faster, and more efficient computer. The transition from electronics to photonics was a big one.


Michael Faraday, a scientist from the 1800s, had become interested in Sir Humphrey Davy's lectures on electricity and magnetism as a boy. In 1829, after Professor Davy passed away, Faraday set about drawing pictures of fields of force due to his lack of skill in math. In 1831, using a magnet and a copper wire Faraday proved that electric fields can turn into magnetic fields and vice versa. Years later, Faraday's contemporary, James Clerk Maxwell, discovered if this happened continuously, a wave would be created which turned out to be light. As the 20th century began, Max Planck proposed that energy was not a continuous wave, like Faraday and Maxwell believed, but instead was in discrete packets called quanta. A Jewish physicist named Albert Einstein later expanded this concept to light coming up with the name photon. This helped pave the way for quantum mechanics and the electronics revolution.

For most of computer history, all computers used electrons for logic. Electricity had been exploited for many years for the purpose of energy. Most technologies in the late 20th & early 21st centuries used electronics which in turn used electrons which were discovered by J.J. Thomson in 1879. In the early 21st century, electronics was giving way to photonics which used light and was more resistant to EMP.


Tech Level: 10-11

The transition from electronics to photonics was not straightforward in computers. The focus of many projects throughout the transition was replacing electronic components in a computer with optical ones. Throughout the early 21st century, photonic components were replacing electronic ones in traditional computers. There was one problem. Optical-electronic-optical conversions resulted in a power loss of 30%. The solutions was to replace conventional transistors with an optical transistor made of metamaterials. This eliminated the need for optical-electronic-optical conversions in the 2030s. These computers were smaller, faster, and more efficient than conventional computers.  They served the people well, and they did have to use photons. Some photonic computers used plasmons.

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