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Intel serves up light chips

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A hybrid silicon-based chip that can produce laser light capable of sending data between chips in a computer has been created by researchers at Intel and the University of California.

The breakthrough in communications technology could mean that in future chips will no longer need wires to send data. Instead laser light will beam the information between chips inside the computer.

This could significantly speed up data transfer as well as reduce manufacturing costs and will potentially have a huge impact on the communications industry, according to the New York Times.

Using indium phosphide on an etched silicon chip, researchers were able to create light-wave guides powerful enough to pick up minute lasers that constantly switch off and on at a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rate of billions of times a second.

Eli Yablonovitch told the New York Times, “There is going to be a lot more optical communications in computing than people have thought.”

While the commercial development of the chips is some time off in the future – with Intel earmarking 2010 – such a breakthrough could slash costs, which further boosts the prospects of high-speed telecommunications networks.

Last week Intel sold its optical networking business for $115m to Cortina Systems Inc. ®

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