Feeds

Boffins create bulk-process on-silicon optics

Managing the on-chip power budget

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

A group of researchers from MIT and the University of Boulder at Colorado say they've moved photonics a step closer to integration with both microprocessors and memory.

On-chip photonics offer a number of attractive prospects for chip-makers. Photonic communications generate less heat than electrons moving through copper, and photons following adjacent paths don't generate crosstalk.

Reducing the on-chip heat load is an important objective, because each transistor crammed onto a chip is a heat source. As transistors get smaller, the amount of heat generated in the tiny space of a microprocessor rises, and since you can't (yet) get rid of the transistors, shifting communications to the optical domain leaves a little more elbow room.

However, to make the whole thing affordable on a mass scale, the optics has to be created using the same manufacturing processes as are used to create the silicon components.

That's where the development from the CU / MIT team. Led by CU-Boulder researcher Milos Popovic, the group has created optical modulators that can be manufactured using familiar processes: the silicon-on-insulator CMOS techniques used in some microprocessor fabs, and the bulk CMOS processes used both in microprocessor and memory fabs.

“On top of the energy-efficiency and bandwidth-density advantages of silicon-photonics over electrical wires, photonics integrated into CMOS processes with no process changes provides enormous cost-benefits and advantage over traditional photonic systems,” explained Vladimir Stojanovic of MIT in a statement.

The SIO-CMOS process was able to deliver a modulator that could operate at 5 Gbps (abstract here), with energy consumption of 40 femto-Joules per bit, while the bulk-CMOS process, also running at 5 Gbps, has energy consumption of 160 femto-Joules per bit (abstract here).

The ultimate aim of the DARPA-funded project, also supported by Micron Technology, is to create a complete photonic processor and memory system. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
Samsung Gear S: Quick, LAUNCH IT – before Apple straps on iWatch
Full specs for wrist-mounted device here ... but who'll buy it?
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Now that's FIRE WIRE: HP recalls 6 MILLION burn-risk laptop cables
Right in the middle of Burning Mains Man week
HUGE iPAD? Maybe. HUGE ADVERTS? That's for SURE
Noo! Hand not big enough! Don't look at meee!
AMD unveils 'single purpose' graphics card for PC gamers and NO ONE else
Chip maker claims the Radeon R9 285 is 'best in its class'
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.