Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"OPTICS: HP targets silicon photonics"

Using silicon photonics to connect blades, boards, chips and eventually cores on the same chip has become a strategic goal for Hewlett Packard Co. Technology efforts were described in HP Labs' first annual Photonic Interconnect Forum. By harnessing its expertise in nanoimprint lithography to fashion low-cost, high-speed silicon photonic devices, HP said it hopes to seed the fledgling community of optical interconnect component makers. Rather than doing it all, HP is seeking partners with other silicon photonic pioneers in hopes of developing its first optical interconnect technology in products by 2009. HP described its laboratory demonstrations of the components needed for creating optical interconnects that handle communication among systems and boards, including two versions of an optical interconnect--a free-space bus (that beams light through air) and a photonic-fiber bus. Its free-space optical connection provided a 240 Gbit/s optical connection that beamed information through the air between boards. Researcher also described a MEMS micro-lens scanner fabricated from silicon-on-insulator that focuses between-board lasers. HP Labs also showed how its optical bus could haressed nanoimprint lithography to fashion cheap plastic waveguides, micro-lenses and beamsplitters. Its first demonstration was of a 10-bit-wide optical data bus that used just 1 milliwatt of laser power to interconnect eight different modules at 10 Gbit/s/channel for an aggregate bandwidth of over 250 Gbit/s. Most photonic interconnects use vertical cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs), but HP Labs also showed inexpensive methods of eliminating the need for expensive gallium arsenide chips, using plasmonic LEDs that could cut costs, and a silicon ring resonator that it hopes to fashion with imprint lighography.