1. IBM’s Silicon Integrated Nanophotonics – ‘ICON’ uses Light Pulses to Move Data at Blazing Speeds!

IBM’s Silicon Integrated Nanophotonics – ‘ICON’ uses Light Pulses to Move Data at Blazing Speeds!

How fast would be the data transfer, if the transmission is done via light pulses?! The answer is here – IBM has announced optical communication technology which has been verified in a manufacturing environment and is ready for Development of Commercial Applications now. The technology is called “silicon nanophotonics”,

Silicon nanophotonics uses light instead of electrical signals to transfer information. Thus it allows large volumes of data to be moved fast (25Gbps per channel) between computer chips in servers, large data-centers, and supercomputers via pulses of light.  Instead of copper or optical cables, IBM envisages on-chip optical routing, where light blasts data between dense, multi-layer computing hubs.


Silicon nanophotonics allows the integration of different optical components side-by-side with electrical circuits on a single silicon chip, in standard 90nm semiconductor fabrication.

IBM Silicon Nanophotonics chip
Cross-sectional view of an IBM Silicon Nanophotonics chip combining optical and electrical circuits

“This future 3D-integated chip consists of several layers connected with each other with very dense and small pitch interlayer vias. The lower layer is a processor itself with many hundreds of individual cores. Memory layer (or layers) are bonded on top to provide fast access to local caches. On top of the stack is the Photonic layer with many thousands of individual optical devices (modulators, detectors, switches) as well as analogue electrical circuits (amplifiers, drivers, latches, etc.). The key role of a photonic layer is not only to provide point-to-point broad bandwidth optical link between different cores and/or the off-chip traffic, but also to route this traffic with an array of nanophotonic switches. Hence it is named Intra-chip optical network (ICON)” , IBM press release.

As per IBM it may take few years for ICON to come on sale. Lets wait to see more!


Updated on December 10, 2012

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