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a) Cleaved coupling section of a bent waveguide bus and a resonator; b&c) Delay line consisting of several ring resonators
Researchers have effectively delayed light's travel for the purpose of chips

IBM has announced that its researchers have built a device capable of delaying the flow of light on a silicon chip, which could lead the further development of using light instead of electricity to transfer data. Researchers have known that the use of optical instead of electrical signals for transferring data within a computer chip might result in significant performance enhancements since light signals can carry more information faster. The engineering challenge is buffering data on the chip, which is difficult given light’s speed. Thus, a means of using light effectively is to delay its travel.

Long delays can be achieved by passing light through optical fibers. IBM scientists were able to delay light by passing it through a new form of silicon-based optical delay line built of up to 100 cascaded "micro-ring resonators," built using current silicon complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) fabrication tools. When the optical waveguide is curved to form a ring, light is forced to circle multiple times, delaying its travel. The optical buffer device based on this simple concept can briefly store 10 bits of optical information within an area of 0.03 square millimeters. This advancement could potentially lead to integrating hundreds of these devices on one computer chip, an important step towards on-chip optical communications.

"Today's more powerful microprocessors are capable of performing much more work if we can only find a way to increase the flow of information within a computer," said Dr. T.C. Chen, vice president of Science and Technology for IBM Research. "As more and more data is capable of being processed on a chip, we believe optical communications is the way to eliminate these bottlenecks. As a result, the focus in high-performance computing is shifting from improvements in computation to those in communication within the system."

The report on this work, "Ultra-compact optical buffers on a silicon chip," is published in the premiere issue of the journal Nature Photonics. This work was partially supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) through the Defense Sciences Office program "Slowing, Storing and Processing Light."

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RE: haha
By starcutter on 12/27/2006 1:44:36 PM , Rating: 2
I think another key point here that cannot be missed is what this will mean for improving the thermal efficiency over current processor technology. Today's top processors generate in excess of 120 watts.

Low-K dielectrics, SOI, and ever decreasing lithographic processes all help to address current leakage and other drivers of inefficiency but the limits of electron/hole current flow through silicon is (at this point) reaching its limitations. Using photons instead of electrons should open a whole new methodology for logical processing. The speed and more importantly the thermal limitations should be drastically reduced.

RE: haha
By ChipDude on 12/27/2006 6:32:56 PM , Rating: 1
ha ha is right.

We'll be decades away from leveraging onchip optical interconnect if ever. At the very best we'll see board level routing. After you add in conversion from electrical to optical and back much of the benifit in spead will evaporate. You'll still see significant benefit in impedence matching, power conveservation in driving long board level RCs. But I have a sad fact for you, the majority of the leakage that is currently burned in a chip isn't for IO signal driving but for on chip signal switching and this will do nothign for that.

Lots of hype from IBM that I'm sure has burned billions in R&D, got them lots of papers but not one dollar of income. You're better of avoiding IBM stock.

RE: haha
By mino on 12/28/2006 6:39:08 AM , Rating: 4
R&D is what IBM is(was?) about for the better half of a century.

Also one thing to remember. Those generous R&D budgets of IBM, HP, TI and the likes is the stuff by which US of A pays for the oil and consumables it gets from the whole outside world.

Go on, go for your profits byt cutting "unneccesary" R&D. A few decades on that route and China will have a nice laugh at the "glory" of the US of A.

Consider that every single moment you bash anyone for having too big of an R&D fo you to swallow.

Of course, in case you not US, all that moral stuff goes into closet for you.

/me not US based BTW...

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