A long time ago, in a place not so far away, I used to believe that future lasers and optics would knock electronics into a tin hat. Yet silicon electronics still dominate all forms of computation and integrated circuit technology. The only place where optics rules is in communication, but even there, the extent of optic’s kingdom is limited.
For optics to really be useful, it needs to be based on the same technology as electronic integrated circuits: complementary metal oxide semiconductors (CMOS). Therein lies the problem—there are no light sources that are CMOS compatible. New research, involving bar-buzzing electrons, may create a future for silicon light sources, but only if some fairly fundamental problems are solved.
Silicon’s dark secret
Light-emitting diodes are as cheap as chips, but they aren’t made from silicon. Why? Because silicon doesn’t like to emit light.