eldavojohn writes: MIT researchers have built and demonstrated the first room temperature germanium laser that can produce light at wavelengths suited for communication. This achievement has two parts, 'unlike the materials typically used in lasers, germanium is easy to incorporate into existing processes for manufacturing silicon chips. So the result could prove an important step toward computers that move data — and maybe even perform calculations — using light instead of electricity. But more fundamentally, the researchers have shown that, contrary to prior belief, a class of materials called indirect-band-gap semiconductors can yield practical lasers.' While these are only the initial steps in what may become optical computing devices, the article paints it as very promising. The painful details [PDF] will be published in the journal Optics Letters.