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Laser-steering Chips Shed Slight on Holograms

From the holodeck to a posthumous Tupac concert, holograms have been an obsession not only of sci-fi fans, but of the general public as well. But while we don't yet have droid answering machines yet, a team of MIT researchers led by Michael Watts may have put us closer to that goal.

The team set out to create a moving light source – a technology that was originally limited to a spotlight-style light source in a mobile mechanical housing. Instead Watts, along with Jie Sun, Urman Timurdogan, Ami Yaacobi and Ehsan Shah Hosseini aimed to produce an array of light emitters capable of varying their “phase,” producing light waves that would interfere with one another in certain locations while intensifying the light in others. This allows the light source to create a beam in any location without ever moving.

The idea is not dissimilar to the technology behind noise canceling headphones, which analyzes an incoming ambient sound wave, and counteracts it with a sound wave of the same amplitude but an inverted wave pattern, effectively neutralizing the original wave. But in this case, two laser beams of light that are calibrated to the same frequency can cancel each other's light.

But phased arrays aren't exactly new – in fact, they've been around for over a century, often used in 100-foot-tall radar transmitters. But in their paper published in this week's issue of Nature, the MIT team describes a 64x64 grid of 4,096 antennas that fits on a single silicon chip.

On this chip, the antennas create a grid of 9 MIT logos that hover above the surface of the chip. But instead of just turning off antennas in the blank space surrounding the logo's letters, the light is neutralized instead. This is done by aiming the rays such that they collide and their amplitudes add up to zero.

In the second chip – an 8x8 grid of antennas – the phase shift that the antennas produce is tunable, allowing the chip to steer light in arbitrary directions. The only difference in chip design is the substantial increase in the number of wires coming off the tunable chip, so implementing this on a larger chip would have been a tedious undertaking. However, the 8x8 design was enough to test and prove the principle.

In the field of phased-array optics, both chips represent the state of the art. The 8x8 design is the first tunable array to be built on a chip, while the non-tunable 64x64 design represents a significant upgrade from its 4x4 predecessor.

According to Watts, this technology may be paving the way for much larger arrays. “It's now very believable that we could make a 3D holographic display.”

And that's not the only possible application. If met with success, these arrays could allow for anything from smaller, more efficient laser rangefinders to medical imaging devices capable of threading through tiny blood vessels.

Full story at MIT

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Feature Articles

Lighting a Fire Under Combustion Simulation

Combustion simulation might seem like the ultimate in esoteric technologies, but auto companies, aircraft firms and fuel designers need increasingly sophisticated software to serve the needs of 21st century engine designs. HPCwire recently got the opportunity to take a look at Reaction Design, one of the premier makers of combustion simulation software, and talk with its CEO, Bernie Rosenthal.

D-Wave Sells First Quantum Computer

On Wednesday, D-Wave Systems made history by announcing the sale of the world's first commercial quantum computer. The buyer was Lockheed Martin Corporation, who will use the machine to help solve some of their "most challenging computation problems." D-Wave co-founder and CTO Geordie Rose talks about the new system and the underlying technology.

NVIDIA Revs Up Tesla GPU

GPU maker NVIDIA has ratcheted up the core count and clock speed on its Tesla GPU processor. The new M2090 module for servers delivers 665 double precision gigaflops, representing close to a 30 percent increase over the previous generation Tesla part. The memory bandwidth on the device was bumped up as well, from 150 GB/second to 178 GB/second. The new GPU boosts performance significantly across a number of HPC codes.

Short Takes

Advanced Modeling Benefits Wind Farms

May 25, 2011 | Advanced computing resources optimize the site selection of wind farms.

Not Your Parents' CFD

Oct 13, 2010 | Outdated beliefs stand in the way of greater CFD adoption.

Manufacturers Turn to HPC to Cut Testing Costs

Oct 06, 2010 | Supercomputing saves money by reducing the need for physical testing.

HPC Technology Makes Car Safety Job 1

Aug 05, 2010 | Automakers turn to computer simulations to design safer vehicles.

UTC SimCenter Called ‘Gold Mine’ for Local Economy

Jul 14, 2010 | University research center could become economic catalyst for Chattanooga.

Sponsored Whitepapers

Technical Computing for a New Era

07/30/2013 | IBM | This white paper examines various means of adapting technical computing tools to accelerate product and services innovation across a range of commercial industries such as manufacturing, financial services, energy, healthcare, entertainment and retail. No longer is technically advanced computing limited to the confines of big government labs and academic centers. Today it is available to a wide range of organizations seeking a competitive edge.

The UberCloud HPC Experiment: Compendium of Case Studies

06/25/2013 | Intel | The UberCloud HPC Experiment has achieved the volunteer participation of 500 organizations and individuals from 48 countries with the aim of exploring the end-to-end process employed by digital manufacturing engineers to access and use remote computing resources in HPC centers and in the cloud. This Compendium of 25 case studies is an invaluable resource for engineers, managers and executives who believe in the strategic importance of applying advanced technologies to help drive their organization’s productivity to perceptible new levels.

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