Quantum computing draws on a simple principle: smaller, researchers hope, will always be faster.
Photons, the smallest indivisible unit of light, are a thousand times thinner than the width of an average human hair. Amr Helmy, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Toronto, uses photons of light to miniaturize technologies from health and environmental monitoring to security and telecommunications.
“The idea is to be able to miniaturize [technologies] and put them down on a little chip that can be battery powered, sitting in your cell phone or could be hooked up to your sort of tablet to provide you with a better monitoring of your vital signs, or environmental toxins, or otherwise, just by using the power of the phone itself and very little else,” says Helmy.
Light can be incredibly useful for environment sensors, says Helmy, providing a way to detect explosives or biomedical molecules remotely. While other technologies might be able to do the same job, he says that photonic devices need less fine tuning, and do the job automatically.