Optical physics plays an enormous role in increasing the computing power of everything from the chips in cell phones to quantum computers.
It wasn’t that long ago that having a computer in your pocket seemed impossible. Even personal computers aren’t that old, but since they debuted in 1975 and weighed more than 50 pounds, we’ve seen massive increases in what our devices are capable of. As processing speeds are increasing, devices are getting smaller and more efficient – all while taking up less space.
That’s in large part thanks to smaller microprocessors, but today, work in quantum computing is opening up exciting new possibilities in materials simulation, cryptography, and data storage. As computers get more powerful and efficient, Corning’s expertise in optical physics will have a key role in shaping their future, whether they’re in your pocket or in a lab.
How Microprocessors are Made
Microprocessors, or the chips that power everything from handheld devices to supercomputers, are made through a process called photolithography, which involves using lasers to inscribe a pattern onto a wafer. Wafers are a kind of semiconductor, which is a material that enables the circuits on a microprocessor to operate. As photolithography gets more precise, microprocessors can get smaller.
For most consumer chips, the focus is on improving the materials used in the antennas inside chips that connect users to the internet. Improvements to these antennas allow for faster data rates. In developing smaller and smaller chips, the challenge for manufacturers is balancing these higher data rates with size constraints. Smaller chips are especially important in mobile applications, where battery life is a key selling point. Because smaller chips run at lower voltages and have less resistance, they also consume less battery power.