Computers running at the speed of light?

illustration of lightwave hitting semiconductorr

An artist’s rendering of a pulse of circularly polarized light hitting a 2-D semiconductor, putting the electrons into a pseudospin state that could store information as part of a new, faster computing technology. (Stephen Alvey, Michigan Engineering)

Researchers from Germany and the University of Michigan have recently demonstrated in a study that infrared laser pulses can shift electrons between two different states, 1 and 0, in a sheet of semiconductor. Their research could help make quantum computing devices, which operate millions of times faster than a conventional computer, a reality. “Ordinary electronics are in the range of gigahertz, one billion operations per second. This method is a million times faster,” said Mackillo Kira, U-M professor of electrical engineering and computer science, who led the theoretical part of the study.

Quantum computing could solve problems much more quickly and advance research in areas such as artificial intelligence and drug design. However, current quantum computers require extremely cold temperatures, making them difficult to operate for widespread, practical use.  The material developed by the study is relatively easy to make, works at room temperature, and at just a few atoms thick, it is maximally compact.

Author: Samantha DeRosia, ITS Communications

Samantha is an intern for the ITS Communications team. You can reach her at