New Optical Data Transfer Capable Microchip

Scientists have discovered a new method to make silicon chips that communicate via light. Current chip technology faces a bottleneck in data speed transfers and this new technology could reduce energy consumption by orders of magnitude. The traditional ‘wired’ connection of current technology also has a heat problem due to the high-performance demands we place on our technology: think Samsung Note 7 failures. But this new development is showing promise in solving both of these issues.

“Instead of a single wire carrying around 10 gigabits per second, you can have a single optical fiber carrying 10 to 20 terabits per second, so a thousand times more in the same footprint,” says Milos Popovic, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Boston University, one of the principal investigators of the study, whose team was previously at the University of Colorado Boulder where part of the work was done.

“If you replace a wire with an optical fibre, there are two ways you win,” he says. “First, with light, you can send data at much higher frequencies without significant loss of energy as there is with copper wiring. Second, with optics, you can use many different colours of light in one fibre and each one can carry a data channel. The fibres can also be packed more closely together than copper wires can without crosstalk.”

Three-dimensional electron microscope image of an electronic-photonic chip
Photo Credit: CNSE Albany

The researcher’s revolutionary techniques will soon be implemented into bulk silicon manufacturing and will mean faster and more energy efficient devices and communication. The applications go far beyond just making your smartphone faster like accelerating the training of deep-learning artificial neural networks used in image and speech recognition tasks, and low-cost infrared LIDAR sensors for self-driving cars, smartphone face identification, and augmented reality technology.

Optically enabled microchips could also enable new kinds of security authentication and be used as components for quantum information processing and computing.

Source: Boston University

This article was featured in Issue #1 of the Into the Void Science Magazine. Read the whole magazine for free by clicking on the image below

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