Intel shows silicon laser chip for 50Gbit/s links

Intel has stepped up its interest in using optical fibres for high speed interconnects in processor-based systems.

Intel has stepped up its interest in using optical fibres for high speed interconnects in processor-based systems.

The work started four years ago with the Light Peak project and it has developed a prototype silicon-based semiconductor laser which Intel claimed could form the basis of 50Gbit/s optical links in computers.

Justin Rattner, Intel chief technology officer and director of Intel Labs, demonstrated the Silicon Photonics Link at the Integrated Photonics Research conference in Monterey, California.

See photo gallery Intel Silicon Photonics.

The 50Gbit/s link was described as a "concept vehicle" that would allow Intel to test new ideas and continue its quest to develop technologies that transmit data using over optical fibres.

The expectation is the silicon-based lasers would reduce the cost and power of the optics compared with the optical fibre components based on gallium arsenide semiconductor devices which are already providing 100Gbit/s data rates in telecoms systems.

"This achievement of the world's first 50Gbit/s silicon photonics link with integrated hybrid silicon lasers marks a significant achievement in our long term vision of "siliconising" photonics and bringing high bandwidth, low cost optical communications in and around future PCs, servers, and consumer devices," said Rattner.

The Photonics Link prototype is composed of a silicon transmitter and a receiver chip, each integrating elements of Intel's Light Peak project including the first Hybrid Silicon Laser co-developed with the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2006 as well as high-speed optical modulators and photodetectors announced in 2007.

UK-based compound semiconductor wafer supplier IQE is creating wafers for the project.

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