Chip-level advances that may change computing

Computerworld

September 13, 2011

By Brian Nadel

Jifeng Liu
MIT professors Lionel Kimerling and Jurgen Michel with researcher Jifeng Liu, now an assistant professor of engineering at Dartmouth. (Photo: Dominick Reuter/MIT)

Chips without wires: The laser connection

An up-close look at any microprocessor reveals millions of tiny wires going every which way to connect its active elements. Go below the surface, and there can be more than five times as many wires. Jurgen Michel, a researcher at MIT's Microphotonics Center in Cambridge, Mass., wants to replace all those wires with flashing germanium (Ge) lasers that transmit data via infrared light.

"As processors get more cores and components," explains Michel, "the interconnecting wires become clogged with data and are the weak link. We're using photons, rather than electrons, to do it better." ...

... In February 2010, Michel and his collaborators, Lionel Kimerling and Jifeng Liu, successfully created and tested a functioning circuit that incorporates Ge laser data transfers. The chip hit speeds of over a terabit per second, or two orders of magnitude faster than today's best chips with wired connectors can do.

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