Optalysys’s technology performs a mathematical function called the Fourier transform by encoding data, say a genome sequence, into a laser beam. The data can be manipulated by making light waves in the beam interfere with one another, performing the calculation by exploiting the physics of light, and generating a pattern that encodes the result. The pattern is read by a camera sensor and fed back into a conventional computer’s electronic circuits. The optical approach is faster because it achieves in a single step what would take many operations of an electronic computer
The technology was enabled by the consumer electronics industry driving down the cost of components called spatial light modulators, which are used to control light inside projectors. The company plans to release its first product next year, aimed at high-performance computers used for processing genomic data. It will take the form of a PCI express card, a standard component used to upgrade PCs or servers usually used for graphics processors. Optalysys is also working on a Pentagon research project investigating technologies that might shrink supercomputers to desktop size, and a European project on improving weather simulations.
In 2015, Optalysis built a prototype that achieves a processing speed equivalent to 320 Gflops and it is incredibly energy efficient as it uses low-powered, cost effective components.
One petaflop target next year and 17 exaflops in 2022.
Optalysys Genesys project
Optalysys has partnered with The Earlham Institute (formerly The Genome Analysis Centre) to create a Genetic Search System through a two year project that has successfully been awarded £0.5m from government body Innovate UK.
To produce a working Genetic Search System prototype (GENESYS™ v0.9) for The Earlham Institute (formerly The Genome Analysis Centre) to perform sequence searches of metagenomic reads sequenced from the Human Microbiome Project Mock Community against a database consisting of 20 bacterial genomes totalling 64+ million base pairs
A system at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 7 on NASA’s scale for technology product maturity (working system in a real-world environment)
95% energy savings and 20x faster processing:
Replaces the need to use The Earlham Institute’s existing HPC architecture for these searches
French Startup LightOn
French startup LightOn, founded earlier this year, has also built a system that uses optical tricks to process data being carried by laser light. The company is targeting a trick used in machine learning that compresses information by multiplying it with random data.
That technique is useful, but onerous for conventional computers working with large data sets, says Laurent Daudet, LightOn’s chief technology officer and a professor of physics at the Université Paris Diderot. His system gets the same effect more easily by exploiting the random scattering that naturally occurs when light passes through translucent material.
Alternative computing like quantum computers and chip designs specialized for AI, and optical computing systems could find successful niches in specialized computing.
SOURCES- Youtube, Optalysys, Technology Review