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September 18, 2006

Intel, UCSB make hybrid Si-laser chip advance


the breakthrough device

By 2010, there should be multi-terabit communication speed inside chips. Computers of all kinds will be far more powerful and it will be far easier, cheaper and faster to integrate multiple chips, cores and computer systems for more effective massively parallel processing.

Researchers at Intel and the University of California, Santa Barbara have made what they say is a major breakthrough in making hybrid silicon lasers that they suggest could have a huge impact on chip-to chip communication and on optical communications networks. The researchers caution that commercializing the laser chip could take till the end of the decade.



Concept of a future integrated terabit silicon optical transmitter containing 25 hybrid silicon lasers, each emitting at a different wavelength, coupled into 25 silicon modulators, all multiplexed together into one output fiber.

The teams indicate bonding the silicon and InP-based laser chips can be achieved at relatively low temperatures and with acceptable and cost effective manufacturing techniques. They suggest the device could handle data rates of between 20Gbit/s to 40Gbit/s, up from today's 10Gbit/s. John Bowers, director of the multidisciplinary optical switching technology center at UC-Santa Barbara, who is involved in the research, says dozens or hundreds of lasers could be integrated on to a single chip.

For a few dollars apiece, such chips could transmit data at 100 times the speed of laser-based communications equipment, called optical transceivers, that typically cost several thousand dollars. The Intel-Santa Barbara work proves that it is possible to make complete photonic devices using standard chip-making machinery, although not entirely out of silicon. "There has always been this final hurdle," said Mario Paniccia, director of the Photonics Technology Lab at Intel. "We have now come up with a solution that optimizes both sides."

In the past it has proved impossible to couple standard silicon with the exotic materials that emit light when electrically charged. But the university team supplied a low-temperature bonding technique that does not melt the silicon circuitry. The approach uses an electrically charged oxygen gas to create a layer of oxide just 25 atoms thick on each material. When heated and pressed together, the oxide layer fuses the two materials into a single chip that conducts information both through wires and on beams of reflected light.

more reading:
More info here at photonics.com

Here is the intel research description

Intel pdf whitepaper on the hybrid silicon laser advance

Intels terascale research project page

Intels computing vision for 2015

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