Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Silicon Photonics

It’s safe to say that when a research group publishes three papers in the journal Nature over one year, those researchers are shaping their field. In 2005, Mario Panicia’s group at Intel scored the hat trick, reporting, among other things, that they’ve developed new ways to integrate light into silicon. They created a silicon laser – an advance that could lead to faster processing (photons are less sluggish than electrons), smaller devices, and cheaper lasers, for everything from cancer detection to precision dental work (see “Intel’s Breakthrough,” July).

Most light-emitting semiconductors – those found in a laser pointer, for instance – rely on alloys of gallium and arsenic, materials that are relatively good at transmitting photons, but not so good at shuttling electrons. Silicon, on the other hand, is a first-rate conductor of electrons, while its optical properties have made generating light challenging.

Panicia’s work has shown that, with a few structural modifications, silicon can host photons as well as electrons. “The physics is the same,” says Panicia. “We’ve just used new architecture to manufacture the light.” The work at Intel, as well as other centers of photonics research, is changing the way silicon can be used. The silicon laser was “a major psychological breakthrough,” says Pannicia’s. “No one thought you could do it.”

Social Machines

A new business and advertising model for the Internet emerged this year. Unlike the preceding version, which centered around online stores and services, “Web 2.0,” as it’s often called, has a distinctly social aspect (See Social Machines, August). “This is the year that venture capital started flowing,” says Jesse James Garrett, co-founder of Adaptive Path, a website consultancy in San Francisco. “It certainly has been an interesting year…We saw social software becoming mainstream and we saw a lot of home-spun social software projects being scooped up by big names and being imitated.”

Yahoo, for example, acquired both, a web service that allows people to upload photos and label them with “tags” so other users can search particular genres for images, and Delicious, a “social bookmarking” website that lets people note Web pages of interest, tag them in a category, and share them with others.

Moreover, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp bought, a social networking site that allows people to connect to friends, friends of friends, and so on. Though only about two years old, has more than 40 million members, who use the site to blog, post descriptions of themselves, and upload music, pictures, and video.

The most popular “social computing” sites are bundling existing technologies, such as blogging software and filesharing, into packages that appeal to the social nature of people. “Having cool technology isn’t enough,” Garrett says. “What you’ve got to do is deliver compelling experiences.”

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Computing

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me