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Paint-on lasers set to rescue silicon

Smashing the bottleneck

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Researchers have said they can rescue silicon from the interconnect bottleneck that is set to put the kybosh on increases in number-crunching pace by 2010. A 'paint-on' laser will make it possible for chips to use optical communication to remove the logjam, say a team from the University of Toronto.

Their innovation, published in the journal Optics Express, uses a suspension of colloidal quantum dots, which are tiny particles of semiconductor. These nanocrystals made the blue laser source used for blu-ray DVD possible.

The Toronto team are the first to make a colloidal quantum dot laser produce invisible infrared light.

This is the wavelength used to carry information in fibre optics. Main author of the report Sjoerd Hoogland told Science Blog: "We made our particles just the right size to generate laser light at exactly this wavelength."

Integrating current bulky laser technology onto chips would be impossible, but the paint-on nanocrystal lasers could be powered by the electronics already on microchips, massively speeding up the links between microprocessor units.

It was a breeze to manufacture too. Hoogland said: "I made the laser by dipping a miniature glass tube in the paint and then drying it with a hairdryer."

The prospect is of a reprieve for the microchip industry in its current form. Other technologies like quantum computing and single-molecule processors are set to take over from silicon eventually.

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