In the emerging Internet of things cyber-physical system-embedded society, big data analytics needs huge computing capability with better energy efficiency. Coming to the end of Moore's law of the electronic integrated circuit and facing the throughput limitation in parallel processing governed by Amdahl's law, there is a strong motivation behind exploring a novel frontier of data processing in post-Moore era. Optical fiber transmissions have been making a remarkable advance over the last three decades. A record aggregated transmission capacity of the wavelength division multiplexing system per a single-mode fiber has reached 115 Tbit/s over 240 km. It is time to turn our attention to data processing by photons from the data transport by photons. A photonic accelerator (PAXEL) is a special class of processor placed at the front end of a digital computer, which is optimized to perform a specific function but does so faster with less power consumption than an electronic general-purpose processor. It can process images or time-serial data either in an analog or digital fashion on a real-time basis. Having had maturing manufacturing technology of optoelectronic devices and a diverse array of computing architectures at hand, prototyping PAXEL becomes feasible by leveraging on, e.g., cutting-edge miniature and power-efficient nanostructured silicon photonic devices. In this article, first the bottleneck and the paradigm shift of digital computing are reviewed. Next, we review an array of PAXEL architectures and applications, including artificial neural networks, reservoir computing, pass-gate logic, decision making, and compressed sensing. We assess the potential advantages and challenges for each of these PAXEL approaches to highlight the scope for future work toward practical implementation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
- Computer Networks and Communications