IBM demonstrates light-based chip communication

By Jos ยท 38 replies
Mar 4, 2010
  1. IBM researchers have announced an important breakthrough today that could change the way computer chips communicate with each other in the future. The company has created a low-power device that can transfer data at high speeds using light, instead of electrical signals over copper wires. The light pulses are transmitted via silicon circuits and can supposedly handle data transfers of up to 40Gbit/s with a 1.5 volt power supply.

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  2. Vrmithrax

    Vrmithrax TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,352   +293

    Provided the scaling can be consistent with current standard manufacturing techniques, this technology could mean huge boosts in mobile computing, both in efficiency and speeds. Using a fraction of the power to run the same operation - imagine the battery life.
  3. Armanian

    Armanian TS Enthusiast Posts: 43   +19

    Once again IBM are making improvements on the next revolution. I just wonder though, if this does ever make it into consumer electronics, how will they stop bits of dirt getting in between the light, as not everyone's pocket is clean (mine are).

    I can see this in very very very very clean environments where not a speck of even the smallest dirt is, but out in the real world, its another matter that needs solving.
  4. supyo

    supyo TS Enthusiast Posts: 50

    I'm commenting because i think this is cool and i want a new laptop :)
  5. Wolfanoz

    Wolfanoz TS Rookie

    Another new chip for another Nintendo system down the road. ;)
  6. Timonius

    Timonius TS Evangelist Posts: 647   +58

    combine this with the concept of 'spintronics' (that is instead of harnesing the power of the spin of the electron rather than the electron itself) and we are are well on our way to all kinds of things. Now about that warp drive...
  7. Tekkaraiden

    Tekkaraiden TS Evangelist Posts: 997   +93

    Based on what I watched I'd figure the light would have to be transmitted via some sort of transmission line (fiber optic or similar) or have the entire circuit sealed from airborne particles.
  8. klepto12

    klepto12 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,115   +9

    this seems like a great way to extend battery life on mobile's and making the system a lot faster overall but 5 to 6 years seems like forever :( but this is fascinating and i will watch the tech closely.
  9. buttus

    buttus TS Enthusiast Posts: 180

    How would this affect the cooling of the chips? Would they even run as hot with this new architecture?
  10. DryIce

    DryIce TS Rookie Posts: 60

    With that kind of power consumption I wouldn't even need a desktop, I could do everything on my laptop! Mobile gaming would be revolutionized!
  11. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,224   +164

    I still want to know when we will be able to use the optical out on the I/O panel of my computer.
  12. flukeh

    flukeh TS Rookie Posts: 57

    I would like to know about this situation as well. Companies would have to make tiny vacuums of space in between the chips, which would presumably be prone to being broken, and that is REALLY not an easy thing to fix one would think.
  13. Renegeek

    Renegeek TS Enthusiast Posts: 93

    I think if this type of chip is used in pc's , for cpu to chipset to other devices... i think pc's and laptops could shrink smaller, and be so much faster... that would be sweet... so may possibilities....
  14. CMH

    CMH TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,039   +9

    As I recall, this technology has been announced for quite a few years, and so its not really groundbreaking news.

    IMO, room-temp superconductors may be a better bet, although I think that one may be much farther down the road.
  15. Yoda8232

    Yoda8232 TS Rookie Posts: 145

    This could be the future here by IBM, but it sounds expensive.
    40 Gbps? Chewie hit the light speed!
  16. peas

    peas TS Enthusiast Posts: 52

    The light signal still has to be converted to electrical before it's of any use. They need a pure photonic transistor before this will be of use in CPUs. By itself this is of no use in chips, with one exception. Where this will be useful is for transmission of information. Maybe a future USB, SATA, or PCIe type of bus that is optical.
  17. DJ83

    DJ83 TS Enthusiast Posts: 33

    I would think the the designers would have built in error correction to ensure the should a particle of dirt come in the way the signal would be retransmitted. This would mean while needing to operate in a clean environment it would not need a vacuum reducing the fragility of the device it would be used in.
  18. Decimae

    Decimae TS Rookie Posts: 78

    This might even be used to break the limit of Moore's law. Circuits can then get a lot smaller. The only problems here are the converters, which after a while, can't get smaller and the transistors, which can't get smaller, and still have to be made photonic, as peas said.
  19. slh28

    slh28 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,706   +172

    I thought this already existed in the form of fibre optic lines? But just not the 40Gbps bit...
  20. marls007

    marls007 TS Rookie

    this typically reminds when fiber optics where first introduced to replace copper wires. welcome to the photonic world.
  21. EduardsN

    EduardsN TS Rookie Posts: 51

    This is just communication between chips, I'm assuming this will be just like fibre optics and is going to be used for communication between the northbridge, cpu, southbridge maybe even the ram. Imagine how fast this is going to be.
  22. zaidpirwani

    zaidpirwani TS Rookie Posts: 74

    10 Years is a long time to WAIT.....
  23. Serag

    Serag TS Booster Posts: 181

    Amazing, at such low voltage it wouldn't generate much heat..
    IBM making future,
  24. fref

    fref TS Enthusiast Posts: 153

    Looks interesting, but this sounds like the sort of thing that never makes it to actual products despite IBM saying 5 to 10 years. Kind of like all those multilayered disks we've seen being announced in the last few years (ie: 200GB Bluray disks with 8 layer disks and the likes).
  25. compdata

    compdata TechSpot Paladin Posts: 529   +7

    Yeah, i guess i am certainly skeptical in the near term. I am currently integrating a "cutting" edge RF to fiber conversion system, and it definitely has some power/heat issues for the targeted application. I know this is a slightly different problem that we are working on, but i would be very surprised if they were able to get this into a reasonable sized package in 5 years.
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