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'Holey Optochip' transfers 1 terabit of info per second

Posted: 09 Mar 2012     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:optical chip  parallel optical transceiver  CMOS 

IBM researchers have developed a prototype optical chip, dubbed 'Holey Optochip', that can transfer data at 1 Tbps (terabit per second), the equivalent of downloading 500 high-definition movies, said the company.

The company said it created 48 holes in standard silicon CMOS chip to make the Holey Optochip. A single 90nm IBM CMOS transceiver IC with 24 receiver and 24 transmitter circuits becomes a Holey Optochip with the fabrication of 48 through-silicon holes, or "optical vias"—one for each transmitter and receiver channel.

"The holes allow optical access through the back of the chip to 24 receiver and 24 transmitter channels to produce an ultra-compact, high-performing and power-efficient optical module capable of record setting data transfer rates."

Holey Optochip

Photomicrograph of IBM Holey Optochip

The Holey Optochip, a parallel optical transceiver, is capable of data transfer at up to eight times the speed of parallel optical components available today. It is expected to power future supercomputer and data centre applications. The transceiver consumes less than five watts; the power consumed by a 100W light bulb could power 20 transceivers.

According to IBM, optical networking offers the potential to significantly improve data transfer rates by speeding the flow of data using light pulses, instead of sending electrons over wires. Researchers have been looking for ways to make use of optical signals within standard low-cost, high-volume chip manufacturing techniques for widespread use.

The Holey Optochip module is constructed with components that "are commercially available today, providing the possibility to manufacture at economies of scale."

"We have been actively pursuing higher levels of integration, power efficiency and performance for all the optical components through packaging and circuit innovations. We aim to improve on the technology for commercialisation in the next decade with the collaboration of manufacturing partners."

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