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Intelligent Machines

When Electron Met Photon

One of the largest bandwidth bottlenecks on the Internet occurs in the modulators and switches that translate the electrons used by computers into the photons that speed data through long-distance fiber-optic “backbone” lines. University of Washington, Seattle chemist Larry Dalton has found a way to accelerate this translation process with a new polymer. Modulators made from the polymer draw very little electrical power, are easy to integrate into electronic devices, and could improve communications speed tenfold. A new subsidiary of Microvision, called Lumera, owns an exclusive worldwide license on the polymer technology from the University of Washington; the Bothell, WA, outfit hopes to market polymer-based telecommunications devices in one to two years.

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