Intel in silicon laser breakthrough


Intel in silicon laser breakthrough

Antony Savvas

Intel has used standard silicon chip manufacturing processes to create the world's first continuous wave silicon laser.

The technology could help bring low-cost, high-quality lasers and optical devices to mainstream use in computing, said Intel.

Intel researchers have found a way to use the "Raman" laser effect and silicon's crystalline structure to amplify light as it passes through it. When infused with light from an external source the experimental chip produces a continuous high-quality laser beam.

While still far from becoming a commercial product, the ability to build a laser from standard silicon could lead to inexpensive optical devices that move data inside and between computers at the speed of light, ushering in a flood of new applications for high-speed computing.

"Fundamentally, we have demonstrated for the first time that standard silicon can be used to build devices that amplify light," said Dr Mario Paniccia, director of Intel's Photonics Technology Lab.

The use of high-quality photonic devices has been limited because they are expensive to manufacture, assemble and package.

"This research is a major step towards bringing the benefits of low-cost, high-bandwidth silicon based optical devices to the mass market," said Paniccia.

Intel said in the future PCs may be powered by tiny lasers, amplifiers and optical interconnects that move terabytes of data around the computer and across networks.

Intel has not published any timescales as to when this technology will be used in commercial products.

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