Electrical currents are best created using semiconductor crystals that absorb light, say researchers who have announced a significant, potential computer-speed breakthrough. The team obtained ultrafast clock rates in the terahertz of frequencies, using light. That is significantly higher than existing single-gigahertz computer clock rates.\nThe \u201cbursts of light contain frequencies that are 5,000 times higher than the highest clock rate of modern computer technology,\u201d researchers at the Forschungsverbund research association in Germany announced in a press release last month. A chip's oscillating frequencies, called clock rate, is one measurement of speed.\nIn the German experiments, conducted by the association\u2019s Max-Born Institute, extremely short, intense light pulses from near-Infrared to a visibly orange color were used to generate oscillating currents in a semiconductor called gallium arsenide. The chip emitted terahertz radiation because of the oscillations. \u201cElectric currents can be generated,\u201d the group say. The breakthrough offers \u201cnovel, interesting applications in high frequency electronics\u201d that could conceivably mean much faster computers than are available now.\n\nAll light and photons\nThere are those who think all computers, and other electronics, will eventually be run on light and forms of photons and that we will ultimately see a shift over to all-light. Indeed, in terms of creating current, solar panels already convert light into electrical current.\nAnd we already see light paths overtaking copper for desirability in communication links\u2014fiber-optic cable is more efficient. Breakthroughs are continually being made in this area, too. For example, shifting light into corkscrew and spiral patterns will speed up photons, say experts.\nFacebook\u2019s initial plans for its data-carrying space laser satellites were revealed in January, according to IEEE Spectrum. The publication says construction permits pulled at Los Angeles County\u2019s building department show a Facebook-linked company is building observatories on a mountaintop there, and they will be part of a laser data project in space. Again, more efficient.\nAnd in more development, light-carrying nanowires could be more efficient in computers and for interconnects. I wrote last summer about the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill\u2019s attempts to get computers to run faster and cooler with the wires that are 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. They are using a kind of modulation to precisely guide the light.\nGrowing lasers on chip silicon is another angle in this photon and light movement. Lasers could reduce the major bottlenecks one sees at the copper wire part of a chip. Conveniently, silicon-germanium, a material used to make microprocessors, has some light-absorbing properties.\nFinnish Aalto University, along with Universit\u00e9 Paris-Sud, this week is in fact claiming that it can propagate data in a microchip better using a new kind of nanoscale amplifier. It corrects a problem whereby very fast attenuation of light within the chip hinders the flow of information when it flows from one processor to another, the group explains in a press release. They\u2019re using an atomic layer to get the results.\nStorage, too\nEven storage, something that has not been thought of as being a suitable light-based medium because traditional lasers haven\u2019t been fast enough, may now be heading towards the light: a hybrid, data center-geared, hard drive concept uses untrashort light pulses to write to magnetic media very quickly and efficiently. It\u2019s up to a thousand times faster than today's hard drives, Eindhoven University of Technology (TU\/e)\u00a0in Holland, announced last month.\n\u201cBoosting performance through electronic methods is getting to be very difficult, which is why we\u2019re looking towards photonics for answers,\u201d says Aalto doctoral candidate\u00a0John R\u00f6nn, in the school's announcement.