IBM makes light work of chips for speed boost

Darren Allan

December 2, 2010

IBM has unveiled a new chip technology which utilises pulses of light rather than electrical signals.

CMOS Integrated Silicon Nanophotonics, as it’s rather snappily named, integrates electrical and optical devices on the same chunk of silicon, to give rise to smaller, faster and more power efficient chips than those we use today.

IBM claims that this enables a ten fold improvement in integration density than current manufacturing techniques allow, and this will bolster the company’s Exascale computing effort.

The latter is a project which is attempting to build a supercomputer that can perform an Exaflop – one million trillion calculations – in a single second.

Dr TC Chen, VP of Science and Technology, IBM Research, commented: “The development of the Silicon Nanophotonics technology brings the vision of on-chip optical interconnections much closer to reality.”

“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.”

IBM notes that the new technology can be produced on the front-end of a normal CMOS manufacturing line, so it won’t require any special new processes or tooling.


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