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Chip Startups Using Light Instead of Wires Gain Speed, Investments

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An Ayar Labs optical chiller, the TerePHY.

Light has been used to transmit data through fiber-optic cables, including undersea cables, for decades, but bringing it to the chip level was difficult as devices used for creating or controlling light have not been as easy to shrink as transistors.

Credit: Ayar Labs/Reuters

Momentum and capital are building for startups developing chips that process data via light rather than wires.

Ayar Labs, which is developing silicon photonics technology that harnesses photons in chips, said it had raised $130 million from investors, including chip behemoth Nvidia.

Other startups using silicon photonics to construct quantum computers, supercomputers, and chips for driverless vehicles also are attracting major investment.

"What the Ayar Labs guys do so they solved the data interconnect problem for traditional high-performance [computing]," said Peter Barrett at venture capital firm Playground Global. "But it's going to be a while before we have pure digital photonic compute for non-quantum systems."

From Reuters
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