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High performance light-based computers in the horizon

Researchers at Intel and the University of California, Santa Barbara have announced
the world's first Hybrid Silicon Laser
, or HSL. An HSL is a silicon-based laser emitting device. According to Intel, creating a laser emitting silicon chip is a breakthrough that will propel the world of computers into the light-based transmission era.

Called Indium Phosphide, the material contains properties that allow it to emit light when voltage is applied. Intel researchers were able to integrate Indium Phosphide into traditional silicon chip manufacturing techniques, thereby creating a silicon-Indium Phoshide hybrid chip -- one that could process traditional electrical signals and transmit laser light. The laser light generated by an HSL chip could be used to transmit data and thus power other silicon photonic devices said Intel.

“Silicon Photonics is a critical part of tera-Scale computing as we need the ability to move massive amounts of data on and off these very high performance chips" claimed Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner. Intel said that HSL could bring along terabit-capable transmission processors that are low cost and easy to produce. Computers would be a multitude more powerful than those we use today. The technology however, is still a number of years off.

Currently, silicon chips can detect light, route light and even modulate light said Intel, but the problem is getting silicon chips to produce light. Intel is taking Phoshide lasers commonly used in other industries and bringing along new types of applications. Voltage is first applied to the HSL. The Indium Phosphide element then produces light, which then enters a silicon waveguide to create continuous laser light. Using this technique, Intel also maintains a low cost production of HSL devices. According to Intel:

The hybrid silicon laser is a key enabler for silicon photonics, and will be integrated into silicon photonic chips that could enable the creation of optical “data pipes” carrying terabits of information. These terabit optical connections will be needed to meet the bandwidth and distance requirements of future servers and data centers powered by hundreds of processors.

The application potentials for HSL chips are truly exciting. The industry in general has been talking about laser or light based electronics for a number of years already. With the development from a company like Intel -- and hopefully others like AMD -- the industry is getting the right push it needs. With multi-core processors now the mainstream, computers will only get faster. HSL devices will drive the future of computing said Intel, and things are looking only brighter. Communications technology uses a fair number of laser electronics and as the technology is refined, desktop computer and notebooks will be using the technology in the next few years as the limits of traditional silicon is reached.

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RE: whew
By Tyler 86 on 9/19/2006 7:13:17 PM , Rating: 2
Ergonomics are nice, at times, even essential.

However, 'wireless power' is already here in several forms, from plasma arcs to Tesla's work - the problem is power without conduction is unpredictable, and potentially destructive.

Nanites may some day form a dynamic airborne network of insulators and conductors to channel 'wireless' power, but it'll have very little to do with optics, I believe.

Power cables can be the diameter of a mouse cord easily; just strip the plastic insulation off - but be warned, it is there for a reason.

While freedom is a definant plus to human interface components, and lasers may have a few contributions in the area, none of the goals or points you specify have much to do with this particular development.

Software developers develop upon whatever they want to develop software upon - profit driven ones tend to orient themselves towards the market, naturally.

I agree wholeheartedly that developers can make use of the technology, and that it is all about the bottom line, and that the research you mention is indeed significant in their decision upon the maximums and minimums of their products - It's only logical.

Nonetheless, a large portion, possibly even the majority, of people that play the games the major video game developers have high end hardware, dispite your claim to the contrary.

Here's an example on videocards alone;
338,317 out of 624,014, 54.21% ( 12.27% margin of error ), have significantly high-end videocards. ( from )

People that do not play high end videogames with their lesser videocards do not tend to purchase many high end videogames. I wonder why... sarcasticly...

RE: whew
By Tyler 86 on 9/19/2006 10:51:17 PM , Rating: 2
I take that bit about having nothing to do with optics back, I just remembered an ionizing laser expiriment... it is possible to conduct electricity using such a laser... however, it's still a might unpredictable.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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