A team of engineers from UMass Boston, in partnership with UMass Lowell, have received a $25,000 Science and Technology Initiative Grant from the University of Massachusetts to conduct research in optical computer technology. The team, led by engineering department chair Greg Sun, will use the funds to further its research into this emergent technology. Sun’s team includes professors Walter Buchwald and Matthew Bell from UMass Boston, and professor Xuejun Lu of UMass Lowell.
For the last few decades, the computing industry has managed to double the number of transistors on a microprocessor chip just about every two years – a principle known as Moore’s Law. This law has guided engineers since the 1960s, but the silicon chips that run all of our electronics are starting to reach their physical limits. To overcome those limitations, engineers hope to turn to photons. Sun’s team is investigating the ways in which photons can be used instead of electrons to create faster, more powerful computers.
This spring the Engineering Department celebrated its first class of bachelor’s degree graduates. Sun says grants like this one help create opportunities for students in this growing department.
“We will have students involved in many aspects of the research,” Sun said. “Through participation in faculty research, the students will gain valuable experiences. A lot of these experiences will help them to get jobs in the industry and make contributions to the local economy.”
Sun says that, despite advances in the field, consumers won’t be able to buy an optical computer any time soon. However, his team’s research into the semiconductor materials that could be used in the production of optical computers is an important next step in developing the technology.
This grant is one of several announced by UMass President Marty Meehan last week. The grants total more than $1 million, and encompass projects in the arts, humanities, social sciences, science, and technology.
“With these grants, we are investing in the vision, expertise, and commitment of faculty members from all five UMass campuses,” Meehan said. “We are supporting distinguished scholars who enrich us through their diligent pursuits.”