IBM says its researchers have built a device capable of slowing down the flow of light, opening the door towards faster computing chips in the future.

The researchers said last week that the advancements could one day allow normal computer chips to use light signals instead of electrical signals to send data. The transition would enable microchips to process more data in less time, the researchers said.

Today's more powerful microprocessors are capable of performing much more work if we can only find a way to increase the flow of information within a computer, said Dr. T.C. Chen, vice president of Science and Technology for IBM Research. As more and more data is capable of being processed on a chip, we believe optical communications is the way to eliminate these bottlenecks.

Researchers have known for some time that optical communication could open the way towards faster chips, however in the past, there was no way to temporarily store optical data for calculations.

IBM's work can control a light signal, slowing down incoming light by forcing the light to travel around 100's of rings. The micro-ring resonators can be made using conventional manufacturing techniques, and can briefly store 10 bits of optical information, the company said.

This advancement could potentially lead to integrating hundreds of these devices on one computer chip, an important step towards on-chip optical communications, the company said.

The results were published December 22 in the premiere issue of the journal Nature Photonics.