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Power Play: Shift from loss to gain may boost silicon devices

Slender, light-transmitting channels might someday replace many electrical wires as connectors between microchips. However, silicon components that could render such light-based connections affordable and easy to fabricate use excessive power and so produce excessive heat.

Now, researchers in California have found a way to hook up a silicon light amplifier so that it harvests power—much the way a solar cell does—rather than wastes it as heat. This new development could propel the computing industry toward optical connections needed to support increasingly fast data processing, says Bahram Jalali of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

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