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Proceedings Paper

Optics vs copper: from the perspective of "Thunderbolt" interconnect technology
Author(s): Hengju Cheng; Christine Krause; Jamyuen Ko; Miaobin Gao; Guobin Liu; Huichin Wu; Mike Qi; Chun-Chit Lam
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Paper Abstract

Interconnect technology has been progressed at a very fast pace for the past decade. The signaling rates have steadily increased from 100:Mb/s to 25Gb/s. In every generation of interconnect technology evolution, optics always seems to take over at first, however, at the end, the cost advantage of copper wins over. Because of this, optical interconnects are limited to longer distance links where the attenuation in copper cable is too large for the integrated circuits to compensate. Optical interconnect has long been viewed as the premier solution in compared with copper interconnect. With the release of Thunderbolt technology, we are entering a new era in consumer electronics that runs at 10Gb/s line rate (20Gb/s throughput per connector interface). Thunderbolt interconnect technology includes both active copper cables and active optical cables as the transmission media which have very different physical characteristics. In order for optics to succeed in consumer electronics, several technology hurdles need to be cleared. For example, the optical cable needs to handle the consumer abuses such as pinch and bend. Also, the optical engine used in the active optical cable needs to be physically very small so that we don't change the looks and feels of the cable/connector. Most importantly, the cost of optics needs to come down significantly to effectively compete with the copper solution. Two interconnect technologies are compared and discussed on the relative cost, power consumption, form factor, density, and future scalability.

Paper Details

Date Published: 27 February 2013
PDF: 5 pages
Proc. SPIE 8630, Optoelectronic Interconnects XIII, 86300J (27 February 2013); doi: 10.1117/12.2005920
Show Author Affiliations
Hengju Cheng, Intel Corp. (United States)
Christine Krause, Intel Corp. (United States)
Jamyuen Ko, Intel Corp. (United States)
Miaobin Gao, Intel Corp. (United States)
Guobin Liu, Intel Corp. (United States)
Huichin Wu, Intel Corp. (United States)
Mike Qi, Intel Corp. (United States)
Chun-Chit Lam, Intel Corp. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8630:
Optoelectronic Interconnects XIII
Alexei L. Glebov; Ray T. Chen, Editor(s)

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