Intel is claiming a milestone in optical communications with the first 50Gbit/s receiver and transmitter modules that produce their own laser light. The development will lead to low-cost optical links within five years that could scale to speeds of up to a terabyte per second, according to the firm.
Intel's silicon photonics data link is just a laboratory research vehicle at the moment, but the company said it will bring the economy of scale from silicon chip manufacturing to deliver low-cost optical communications in everything from datacentres to PCs and even consumer video.
Dr Mario Paniccia, director of Intel's Photonics Technology Lab, said that the industry is reaching the limits of copper wiring, with speeds above 10Gbit/s requiring more energy to transmit across anything but short distances.
Moving to optical fibre and photonic communications is one answer, but current technology is too expensive.
"Because of the cost, because of the bulkiness, the costs are still limiting use only for telecoms. It is very difficult to drive use of optical in the PC or in and around everyday devices," said Paniccia.
Intel's technology uses a hybrid silicon laser that is integrated into the transmitter chip itself, along with other components such as the modulator and multiplexer to combine several laser beams representing separate channels for transmission along an optical fibre.
This means that the transmitter and receiver can be manufactured using similar processes to Intel's CPU chips.
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