IBM Research Unveils Silicon Photonics Chip Capable of 100Gbps
IBM sees potential of replacing electric signals with pulses of light (Image: IBM)

IBM Research Unveils Silicon Photonics Chip Capable of 100Gbps

Making a big step forward in silicon photonics, IBM Research designed and tested a fully integrated wavelength multiplexed silicon photonics chip, which fully enables the use of pulses of light instead of electrical signals over wires to move data.

Making a big step forward in silicon photonics, IBM Research said it has designed and tested a fully integrated wavelength multiplexed silicon photonics chip, which fully enables the use of pulses of light instead of electrical signals over wires to move data. This step will lead to the eventual manufacturing of 100Gbps optical transceivers for commercial use.

With supercomputing and data center interconnects in mind for initial uses of this technology, IBM says it has demonstrated pushing 100Gbps over a range up to two kilometers. Whether the new CMOS Integrated Nano-Photonics Technology IBM has developed will be built with existing manufacturing processes or not will determine exactly how quickly the product will come to market.

IBM says its chips use four distinct colors of light traveling within an optical fiber, each acting as an independent 25Gbps optical channel, for 100 Gbps bandwidth over a duplex single-mode fiber.

The chip enables integration of different optical components side-by-side with electrical circuits on a single silicon chip using sub-100nm semiconductor technology. The essential parts of an optical transceiver, both electrical and optical, can be combined monolithically on one silicon chip, and are designed to work with with standard silicon chip manufacturing processes, according to IBM.

Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research said that "just as fiber optics revolutionized the telecommunications industry by speeding up the flow of data -- bringing enormous benefits to consumers -- we’re excited about the potential of replacing electric signals with pulses of light. This technology is designed to make future computing systems faster and more energy efficient, while enabling customers to capture insights from Big Data in real time."

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