IBM’s Holey Optochip Breaks the Terabit Barrier

With so much information traveling hither and yon on the Internet (especially if you’re doing simulation or renderings via the cloud), improvements in speed are something of a Holy Grail (yeah, I went there) for scientists. Chips that use light beams instead of electrons seem to be the way forward. We covered MIT’s foray into photonic chips earlier on EE and now IBM Labs has released its first prototype.

The Holey Optochip is a parallel optical transceiver that has managed to break 1 terabit (that’d be 1 trillion bits) per second. For some perspective, that would allow users to download 500 HD movies in a second, or the entirety of the Library of Congress in about an hour.

IBM's Holey Optochip

IBM's Holey Optochip prototype is capable of terabit speeds. Courtesy of IBM.

Reaching the one trillion bit per second mark with the Holey Optochip marks IBM’s latest milestone to develop chip-scale transceivers that can handle the volume of traffic in the era of big data. We aim to improve on the technology for commercialization in the next decade with the collaboration of manufacturing partners. —Clint Schow, IBM Researcher

Scientists have been working on a way to create photonic chipsets that allows for low-cost, mass production. IBM researchers created the Holey Optochip by manufacturing a silicon CMOS chip with 48 holes in it to allow light to reach the back of the chip. The result allows 24 receiver and 24 transmitter channels to operate on a compact frame.

For the environmentally minded, the new chipset is also green. It requires fewer than 5 watts of energy to operate, which is 20 times less power than is required for a single 100W light bulb.

The prototype proves a shift in high-speed communications is possible in the near future. Photonic chips will allow companies to leverage the power of cloud computing at speeds fast enough to make working with remote collaborators as easy as sending an email. The usefulness of cloud storage will also increase as broadband gets faster.

Below you’ll find a video that covers photonic computing.

Source: IBM

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