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Ibm Chips: Let There Be Light Signals


December 1, 2010

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IBM has achieved a major milestone in making the dream of silicon photonics, in which computer chips send signals of light rather than electricity, into reality.

At the semiconductor industry conference Semicon in Tokyo today, IBM photonics leader Yurii Vlasov is detailing how IBM has created a chip that integrates many of the necessary elements of optical communication between a processor and other devices. Significantly, the design uses conventional rather than exotic chip manufacturing technology, involves very small components, and essentially permits a fiber-optic communication line to be attached directly to a processor.

And more significantly, it's headed for real-world use, a sign that IBM's work is serious. That initial use is in IBM's relatively exotic Exascale project to build a computer that can perform a quintillion mathematical calculations per second--roughly 1,000 times that of today's fastest supercomputers.

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