Published: 04 September 2014

First Year Electronic Engineering student wins prestigious IET award

Abdullah Al-Shakarchi has won the Surrey heat of the IET’s Present Around the World (PATW) competition and placing as a runner-up in the South England regional final.

A global annual competition organised by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), PATW challenges students, engineers, apprentices and technicians aged between 18 and 26 to present on a technical topic of their choice and answer questions from the floor. Abdullah’s talk, ‘Beyond Moore: Optical Computing’, explored whether transistors based on light could feasibly replace semiconductor based processors in the future.

"There will need to be another computing revolution in the next two or three decades."

- Abdullah Al-Shakarchi

Making an excellent impression on judges, Abdullah was named winner of the Surrey network heat held at the University on 7 May and went on to represent Surrey at the South England regional final, which took place at the University of Hertfordshire on 26 June.

He commented: “Being named runner-up in the regional final was an honour, particularly having competed as a first-year undergraduate against professional young engineers and researchers, all of whom were wonderful speakers.”

Abdullah was inspired to speak about Optical Digital Computing having written a research paper on the subject for his International Baccalaureate, which later won the Qatar National Research Fund SSREP Award.

“With the technology we use today more or less unchanged from what we had half a century ago, there will need to be another computing revolution in the next two or three decades,” he explained.

“My presentation discussed the limitations of current computing technology and solutions presented by research groups at Purdue, MIT and Stanford to creating a transistor based entirely on light, replacing electrons in traditional systems.

“There are significant advantages to using photon based architectures. Light is significantly faster, not as prone to interference, generates no heat, allows for true parallel processing and is persistent in quantum states. In ten to 15 years we could begin to see this technology in communications infrastructures, satellites and military hardware, paving its way into consumer electronics and perhaps one day replacing electron based computers.”

Lecturer Dr Tim Brown said, “Abdullah's achievements testify that participating in PATW is an opportunity to show real originality in gaining and disseminating knowledge. I give all my congratulations.”


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