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IBM inches towards commercial 25Gbit/s optical chips

10 Dec 2012
IBM unveils its latest nanophotonics chip

IBM claims to have developed a breakthrough in optical computing, which could see the production of chips capable of rapidly shuttling vast quantities of data using light rather than electrons.

Big Blue's so-called silcon nanophotonics system integrates optical components alongside electrical circuits, and can be built in a traditional chip foundry.

“This allows us to move silicon nanophotonics technology into a real-world manufacturing environment that will have impact across a range of applications,” said John Kelly, director of IBM research.

IBM's silicon nanophotonics chip was first unveiled in 2010, the results of a decade-long research programme to build commercially viable optical components.

According to IBM, its optical chips will be able to cope with moving large volumes of data at rapid speeds, far beyond the capabilities of traditional silicon. Currently, the technology has been shown to achieve data rates of 25Gbit/s, IBM claimed.

It expects the silicon nanophotonics systems to hold a strong appeal for firms dealing with big data problems, or those that need to move large volumes of within datacentres.

By integrating the optical components into a traditional silicon design, IBM claims it can dramatically reduce the cost of optical circuits.

Further details of the work are to be presented at the International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco this week.

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