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COMP30251: Optical Computing (2008-2009)

This is an archived syllabus from 2008-2009

Optical Computing
Level: 3
Credit rating: 10
Pre-requisites: No Pre-requisites
Co-requisites: No Co-requisites
Duration: 11 weeks in first semester.
Lectures: 22 in total, 2 per week
Labs: none
Lecturers: Paul Nutter
Course lecturer: Paul Nutter

Additional staff: view all staff
Sem 1 w1-5,7-12 Lecture 1.4 Thu 10:00 - 11:00 -
Sem 1 w1-5,7-12 Lecture 1.4 Tue 10:00 - 11:00 -
Assessment Breakdown
Exam: 100%
Coursework: 0%
Lab: 0%
Degrees for which this unit is optional
  • Artificial Intelligence BSc (Hons)


The exploitation of light has revolutionised the way we transmit and store data, can it do the same in the way in which we manipulate data? This course looks at the application of light in areas of computing, communications and optical storage.

The telecommunications industry has been transformed through the use of optical fibres, which have enabled millions of telephone calls to be transmitted simultaneously over a single glass fibre, as well as permitting broadband internet connections to our homes. The use of light in optical storage systems has also allowed storage densities to increase from the 650MB of the ubiquitous CD up to 50GB per disc in the new Bluray standard. In addition, optical systems have a potential for parallelism and connectivity far in excess of that offered by computers based on today's electronic technology.

Thus, the aim of this course is to look at the application of optics in these three areas and, in particular, explore architectures, techniques and applications suitable for use in optical computing.

Learning Outcomes

A student completing this course unit should:
Have a knowledge and understanding of digital optical systems ranging from applications to logic. (A)
Have knowledge and understanding of places where an optical solution could outperform electronics. (A, B)
Have an understanding of the parallel architectures suited to optics and techniques for implementing them. (A, B)
Have the ability to design a simple optical logic system. (B)
Have an understanding of the application of optics in communications. (A)
Have an understanding of the use of optical interconnection schemes, the advantages, disadvantages and technological barriers. (A, B)
Have an understanding on the use of optical-based technologies for mass data storage. (A)

Assessment of Learning outcomes

All learning outcomes are assessed by examination.

Contribution to Programme Learning Outcomes

Contribution to Programme Learning Outcomes A1, A3, A5, B1, B2, B3


Introduction & Overview (1)

Introduction to Optics (1)

The behaviour of light; polarized light; fundamental optical components.

Sources of Light & Detectors (1)

Stimulated emission of light and the Laser; other sources of light; light detectors.

Communication with Optics (6)

Fibre-optic communications; light propagation in optical fibres; fibre-optic networks. Optical interconnects; optical switches.

Optical Memories & Data Storage (4)

Optical storage systems - ROM, WORM, RAM

The evolution of optical storage systems, magneto-optic storage systems; future technologies, near-field storage, holographic storage.

Signal Processing with Optics (1)

Simple signal processing

The Fourier transform; spatial filtering; pattern recognition.

Computing with Optics (5)

Optical signal encoding techniques

Optical logic; smart pixels & optical FPGAs.

Matrix operations using optics

Optical binary arithmetic.

Architectures and Applications (3)

SIMD pipelined arrays.

Applications: bitonic sort, image processing, optical neural networks.

Reading List

Core Text
Title: Optical computing: a survey for computer scientists
Author: Feitelson, Dror G.
ISBN: 0262560623
Publisher: MIT Press Ltd
Year: 1992