Monday, September 18, 2006

Light in the tunnel

Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Intel Corp. today showed a little more light at the end of today’s copper tunnel leading to a future of optical chip-to-chip interconnects.

Researchers in the optoelectronics research lab of John Bowers (pictured), a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCSB, demonstrated what they called the world’s first electrically powered hybrid silicon laser made from a combination of indium phosphide to generate light and silicon to route it.

The demo pointed the way to creating a low-cost light source on silicon, one of the last big obstacles to creating affordable, fast optical links between chips. Though commercial products are still years away, ultimately hundreds of such links could be put on a single die.

“This could bring low-cost, terabit-level optical ‘data pipes’ inside future computers and help make possible a new era of high-performance computing applications," said Mario Paniccia, director of Intel’s Photonics Technology Lab that described the work on the company’s Web site.

"Silicon Photonics is a critical part of tera-scale computing as we need the ability to move massive amounts of data on and off these very high performance chips,” said Justin Rattner, Intel's chief technology officer in a prepared statement.--rbm

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