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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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DailyTech Physicisist Strike Again!
By dcollins on 12/27/2006 9:57:55 PM , Rating: 2
Once, I'm flabbergasted at the "well this is still X years away from a real product, who cares?" comments. Computing devices were first theorized in the 1890's and it wasn't until the advent of silicon devices in the 70's that this work ever used to create a usable product. And another 20 before consumers saw the fruits of these labors.

Light based computing may be 10-20 years out and may never materialize, but if no one performs such experimental R&D, we'd never have the hard working, practical computing devices we have now.

Don't quote me on the dates, I didn't feel like wikipediaing the specifics. :)


RE: DailyTech Physicisist Strike Again!
By masher2 on 12/28/2006 5:53:24 AM , Rating: 1
Actually, computing devices were first theorized in the late 1700s. Babbage built a (nonworking) computing device in the early 1800s...20 years later, working models were being sold. And electronic programmable computers were first built in the 1940s, not the 1970s.

By fumar on 12/29/2006 3:14:31 AM , Rating: 2
You are correct about the first working computers. I believe it was used for ULTRA (the project dedicated to decoding the German enigma code)

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