Important Step to Bringing Photonics to Computers
The march of progress for electronics has been following Moore's Law for some time now, faithfully doubling the number of transistors on a chip every two years. That march may be halted in the future though, as power consumption and other factors limit our ability to shrinking the components further. One alternative to electronics that could pick up the march is photonics, and researchers have recently made a great step towards that end, as reported by the Optical Society.
Researchers have been building photonic devices for some time, but these devices are often custom built, using processes and techniques that prevent mass production. Now researchers have managed to build a modulator and tunable filter using IBM's advanced CMOS process. This same process has been used to create silicon electronics for years, and this is the first time the researchers are aware of it being used to create silicon photonics that rival electronics for energy efficiencies. The modulator can be used to translate an electrical signal to an optical one while the tunable filter can select a single frequency from multiple.
The researchers believe these devices could be used for chip-to-chip communications, where the chips could take advantage of the 10 times higher bandwidth density of the optical devices. As one optical link can carry multiple frequencies, it can carry multiple, discrete channels, whereas electrical signals each require their own wire. The work is to be presented at the OFC Conference and Exposition in San Francisco from March 9-13.
Source: The Optical Society