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Computing using EM waves?

  1. Dec 11, 2012 #1
    Hi all,

    I was just wondering if there has been research into computing using electromagnetic waves. It seems to me like a sealed off box with internal EM pluses could be used to mould waveforms through interference, which would act as logic gates to provide useful computational results. Would this be in any way practical?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2012 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Here is an introduction to Optical Logic, which is the closest thing that I kinow of to what you are asking...


    Last edited: Dec 15, 2012
  4. Dec 11, 2012 #3
    Thanks for the link. Optical computing is a somewhat related idea, but I've never heard of someone trying to design a computer using electromagnetic waveforms alone as logic elements.
  5. Dec 15, 2012 #4


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    AFAIK, there is no computer implementation relying primarily on EM waves for logic operations though your description is lacking in detail.

    Some Quantum Computers prototypes have used radio pulses to manipulate a quantum state, but that is purely mechanical, the Quantum effects being far more relevant.

    Enhancements to computer performance fall into one of two categories:

    1. Optimization
    Uses faster or more efficient signal processing, parallel cores, etc (e.g. Optical Computing).
    2. Computational shift
    Introduces a new computational model that is inherently superior (e.g. Quantum Computing). Note that traditional computers are more suitable for solving problems in the complexity class P, whereas Quantum Computers can solve the more difficult problems in the class BQP.

    Which of the two did you have in mind?
  6. Dec 15, 2012 #5
    I was thinking more #1. Photons travel faster than anything else, so using photon waves alone, without any physical intermediary like refractors, could speed up computation a little. If EM waves could be put to use like gears in a clock, then the waves would be the gears and the clock-hand would be the computational result.

    It's just a silly conjecture, sorry I can't provide any more explanation than that.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2012
  7. Dec 16, 2012 #6


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  8. Dec 16, 2012 #7
  9. Dec 16, 2012 #8


    Staff: Mentor

    Doesn't all computing use EM waves?
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