IBM Research Chip: Low Energy, 100X Faster

IBM says silicon nanophotonics can allow cores within a multi-core processor communicate 100 times faster while using one-tenth of the power.

IBM today outlined research on its development of silicon nanophotonics, which can allow cores within a multi-core processor to communicate 100 times faster while using one-tenth the power. The technology uses pulses of light instead of electrical signals to link the chips. The bad news: the technology is at least 10 to 12 years away from market.

IBM says the breakthrough could one day give laptops the processing power of supercomputers. "And while today's supercomputers can use the equivalent energy required to power hundreds of homes, these future tiny supercomputers-on-a-chip would expend the energy of a light bulb," IBM says. The technology, known in the industry as a silicon Mach-Zehnder electro-optic modulator, is described in a paper in the journal Optics Express. IBM has a press release, and also has a video summarizing the news:

For additional discussion, see InfoWorld, GigaOm and Engadget.