Colors expand neural net

December 31, 2003/January 7, 2004

Artificial neural networks mimic the brain's structure -- many neurons that each have many connections to other neurons -- and consequently have the ability to learn. Improving artificial neural networks means making more connections, adding processors, or speeding communications between nodes.

And using lightwaves rather than electric current to carry communications is one way to speed information flow.

Researchers from the University of Tokyo have worked out a way to form an especially fast optical neural network by tapping the wave nature of lightwaves rather than just the amplitude, or strength of a signal. The many different frequencies, or wave sizes of light, makes it possible to generate many signals.

The researchers' lightwave neural network system could be used to process massive amounts of information that can be read from and written to ultrahigh capacity optical memory devices like holograms. The system can handle a lot of information at once because of the vast frequency range of the lightwaves involved, and also fast processing speed because different frequencies can be processed in parallel.

Implementing a lightwave neural net in a prototype network of micro-optical devices like photonic crystals could be done within a few years, according to the researchers. Eventually the system could be used with rewritable optical disks that contain holograms, according to the researchers. The work appeared in the September, 2003 issue of Optical Engineering.

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