The other day a group of researchers at the University the Australia announced that they had become the first to ever turn light-based data into sound and then back to light again on a microchip. They detailed their findings in the open access journal “Nature Communications”, with their paper being called “A chip-integrated coherent photonic-phononic memory.”

What does turn light into sound on a microchip mean?

Using these microchips in Computers in the future to help change data transfer technology is still a far away idea, that will need much more research and further technological advancements. However, this is an important first step in improving how they could one day operate in terms of using less energy and producing less heat while using already in-place fiber optic cables to run through.

Light and sound are able to convert relatively easily into one another since they are similar. However, photons are extremely quick, meaning that the team had to slow them down to turn them into sound on the microchip. In order to get the microchip to convert light into sound, the research team relied on using stimulated Brillouin scattering.

What is stimulated Brillouin scattering?

This is when two light waves are passed through a unique type of wire that works kind of like a fiber cable to escort the light. One wave will hold data and the other is there in order to help make the sound wave. When these two light waves hit each other the electric field from the data containing wave rouses the material the fiber is made of, creating a tiny sound wave that contains equivalent properties.

How the researchers made their breakthrough

The researchers, led by Moritz Merklein and Dr Birgit Stiller, learned that they can invert the stimulated Brillouin scattering process by sending the sound wave into a different non-data containing light wave. This which remakes the original light pulse. and is what let them turn light into sound and then back into light again.

The microchip that the Australian team created to do all of this with is the size of a small coin. Meanwhile, the special wire they used was to convert everything was only a micrometer wide and around ten centimeters (3.93 inches) in length.

According to the researchers, the sound in the microchip moved five orders of magnitude slower than light, The original light pulse they recreated also lasted about 3.5 nanoseconds inside the microchip but it wasn't a perfectly efficient signal.

The team is hopeful that they can improve on their work and make it last even longer in future studies.