Breakthrough in computer chip design eliminates wires in data transmission

September 20, 2006

Research slated to appear in the October 2 edition of the Optical Society of America's Optics Express will unveil that researchers have created a new laser-silicon hybrid computer chip that can produce laser beams that will make it possible to use laser light rather than wires to send data between chips, removing the most significant bottleneck in computer design.

The development is a result of research at Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, and the University of California, Santa Barbara. Commercializing the new technology may not happen before the end of the decade, but the prospect of being able to place hundreds or thousands of data-carrying light beams on standard industry chips is certain to make waves in both the communications and computer industries.

The paper describes the development of a computer chip that uses indium-phosphide-based lasers rather than electrical wires to transmit data to neighboring computer chips, promising a much higher rate of data transfer than previously possible in practical computing devices.

"This is an important time of change in the field of optics," said Dr. John Bowers, director, Multidisciplinary Optical Switching Technology Center (MOST) and professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "Laying the groundwork for high-volume, fast, high- performance optical devices is crucial. The Hybrid Silicon Laser we describe in our Optics Express article allows lasers to be integrated onto a silicon substrate and paves the way for future optical communications at low cost."

Source: Optical Society of America

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