Silicon photonics--using light instead of electrons for communications on and among microchips--will soon be a reality according to IBM which has just patented the last piece of the photonics puzzle--a germanium photodetector. Look for a new generation of microprocessors that use light for communications within five years. R.C.J.
IBM Research claimed a keystone achievement in on-chip optical communications Wednesday (March 3), saying its 40-gigabit-per-second (Gbps) germanium avalanche photodetector completes what it calls the nanophotonic toolkit. Capping its multi-year effort by surmounting this final technological hurdle, IBM (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) now claims to have all the pieces to enable chip-to-chip optical communications and ultimately core-to-core optical communications on the same chip. The remaining development effort to integrate its nanophotonic toolkit into its commercial processors will occur over the rest of the decade, IBM said.
Over the last few years, IBM has demonstrated silicon modulators for converting electrical signals into light, a silicon delay line for buffering optical signals plus the waveguides and switches necessary to create a complete chip-to-chip optical bus. With the addition of this nanophotonic avalanche photodetector, IBM claims to have its nanoelectronic ducks in-a-row standing poised to obsolete copper wires in favor of optical communications on and among future chips.
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