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Optoelectronics & Communications

IBM chip announcement heralds leap in computing speed

Various sources
2 December 2010

IBM says its new chip technology will enable a 10X improvement in integration density and produces smaller, faster and more power-efficient chips. (Photo: IBM)

IBM scientists have unveiled a new chip technology that integrates electrical and optical devices on the same piece of silicon, enabling computer chips to communicate using pulses of light instead of electrical signals, resulting in smaller, faster and more power-efficient chips than is possible with conventional technologies.

The new technology, called CMOS Integrated Silicon Nanophotonics, is the result of a decade of development at IBM's Global Research laboratories. The patented technology will change and improve the way computer chips communicate -- by integrating optical devices and functions directly onto a silicon chip, enabling over 10X improvement in integration density than is feasible with current manufacturing techniques.

IBM anticipates that silicon nanophotonics will dramatically increase the speed and performance between chips, and further the company's ambitious Exascale computing program, which is aimed at developing a supercomputer that can perform one million trillion calculations -- or an Exaflop -- in a single second. An Exascale supercomputer will be approximately one thousand times faster than the fastest machine today.

SPIE will host a panel on Silicon Photonics and Photonic Integrated Circuits at Photonics West at 2 pm on 25 January in San Francisco. Bert-Jan Offrein of IBM Zürich Research Lab will be among the participants.

Full press release from IBM
Electricity and Light in One Chip (Technology Review)
Let There Be Light Signals (CNet DeepTech blog)