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IBM Chip Aims to ­se Light to Speed up Internet Services

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IBM silicon nanophotonics chip

Blue optical waveguides transmit high-speed optical signals and yellow copper wires carrying high-speed electrical signals on IBM's silicon nanophotonics chip.

Credit: IBM Research

IBM researchers have developed a chip that makes it easier to move data via pulses of light instead of using electrical signals. The chip could offer a way to move large amounts of information between processors in computer servers at higher speeds than in existing systems.

Although data centers have already started using optical cables to move data between racks of computer chips instead of copper cables, they need special equipment to convert the light-encoded data into a format that processors can use. IBM's researchers say they have made it possible for this conversion process to take place on a chip that integrates optical components next to electrical circuits on the same piece of silicon. "With this new technology you can make this fast search happen in a way that makes economic sense," says IBM's Solomon Assefa. Each chip contains several channels that can each handle light-encoded data at speeds of up to 25 gigabits per second. When the channels are combined, data can be transferred hundreds of times faster, according to the researchers.

"There should be demand from data centers where there's a need to shift around huge amounts of information," says University of Surrey professor Alan Woodward.

From BBC News
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