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IBM Claims Breakthrough in Laser-Based Chips

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IBM recently announced a breakthrough in the development of silicon-based chips that send data using pulses of laser light. IBM says the research sets the stage for future chips that can send more than a trillion bits of data per second, about 25 times faster than the optical components currently used in high-performance computers. IBM's Yurii Vlasov says the first commercial applications of the technology should reach the market in three to five years.

Silicon is much less costly to use than more common optical materials, but is inefficient at emitting light. Researchers have overcome these barriers using modulated pulses of laser light to encode data and detect signals. Luxtera has developed silicon photonic chips built for transceivers with four data channels that can transmit 40 gigabits of data per second. IBM is focusing on developing optical and electrical components on the same piece of silicon, which would make chips much smaller and less expensive. IBM can currently create data channels that are one-tenth the size of other silicon components, Vlasov says.

Intel also is working on lasers and other optical components made from silicon. "We already have a functional link running in the lab, and we are aggressively moving to higher bandwidths," says Intel's Mario Paniccia.

From The Wall Street Journal
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