IBM announces breakthrough in optical chip technology

Tech paves the way to 'exaflop level' computing performance
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IBM unveiled a new chip technology that integrates electrical and optical components on the same piece of silicon which the company said would result in smaller, faster and more power-efficient chips.

IBM calls the new technology CMOS Integrated Silicon Nanophotonics and is the result of a decade of research at IBM’s global research laboratories. The firm said that the technology will improve the way computer chips integrate by integrating optical devices directly onto a chip, enabling over ten times the integration density than traditional manufacturing techniques.

“The development of the Silicon Nanophotonics technology brings the vision of on-chip optical interconnections much closer to reality,” said IBM Research vice president Dr. T.C. Chen.

“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.”

Big Blue said that it anticipates Silicon Nanophotonics will “dramatically increase the speed and performance between chips.”

“Our CMOS Integrated Nanophotonics breakthrough promises unprecedented increases in silicon chip function and performance via ubiquitous low-power optical communications between racks, modules, chips or even within a single chip itself,” said IBM Silicon Nanophotonics manager Dr. Yurii A. Vlasov.

The details and IBM’s research effort were presented by Yurii Vlasov at the international semiconductor industry conference SEMICON held in Tokyo on the December 1, 2010.

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