As AI models become more computationally demanding, engineers are looking to new types of materials and hardware to speed up the model development process. One category of components with promise is photonic chips, which leverage light to send signals as opposed to the electricity that conventional processors use. In theory, photonic chips could lead to higher performance because light produces less heat than electricity, can travel faster, and is less susceptible to changes in temperature and electromagnetic fields.
But photonic chips have drawbacks that must be addressed if the technology is to reach the mainstream. They’re physically larger than their electronic counterparts and difficult to mass-produce, for one, owing to the immaturity of photonic chip fabrication plants. Moreover, photonic architectures still largely rely on electronic control circuits, which can create bottlenecks.