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IBM unveils worlds tiniest optical chip switch for energy efficiency

Antony Savvas

IBM researchers have developed the world's tiniest switch to rout optical data between computer chip cores in an energy efficient way.

The system uses light pulses instead of electrons, with a footprint about 100x smaller than the cross section of a human hair.

The switching technology can significantly speed up chip performance while using much less energy, said IBM.

In December 2007, IBM scientists announced the development of an ultra-compact silicon electro-optic modulator, which performs the job of converting electrical signals into the light pulses, a prerequisite for enabling on-chip optical communications.

"This new development is a critical addition in the quest to build an on-chip optical network," said Yurii Vlasov, manager of silicon nanophotonics at IBM's TJ Watson Research Center.

"In view of all the progress that this field has seen for the last few years, it looks like our vision for on-chip optical networks is becoming more and more realistic."





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