IBM makes light-speed processor breakthrough

IBM has unveiled nanophotonics chip technology which integrates electrical and optical devices on the same piece of silicon, to enable computer chips to communicate using pulses of light instead of electrical signals.

IBM has unveiled nanophotonics chip technology which integrates electrical and optical devices on the same piece of silicon, to enable computer chips to communicate using pulses of light instead of electrical signals. According to IBM the breakthough could lead to significant improvements in performance at both the chip and system levels.

The new IBM technology, called CMOS Integrated Silicon Nanophotonics, is the culmination of a 10-year research effort across IBM's global research labs, and is expected to enable terabyte-per-second devices.

The research is part of IBM's Exascale computing programme, which is creating a supercomputer that can perform one million trillion calculations - an Exaflop - in a single second. The Exascale supercomputer will be approximately one thousand times faster than the fastest machine today, IBM said.

"The development of the Silicon Nanophotonics technology brings the vision of on-chip optical interconnections much closer to reality," said Dr Chen, vice president, science and technology, IBM Research.

"With optical communications embedded into the processor chips, the prospect of building power-efficient computer systems with performance at the Exaflop level is one step closer to reality."

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