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MIT’s Communications Technology Roadmap Moves to Phase II

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2006
Anne L. Fischer

MIT’s Microphotonics Center, operating within the Cambridge, Mass., institute’s Materials Processing Center, recently launched the second phase of its Communications Technology Roadmap (CTR) program. The role of CTR II is to coordinate and carry out the pre-competitive, collaborative research projects identified in the initial phase and to continue charting a course for the future.
In its conclusion, CTR I produced “Microphotonics: Hardware for the Information Age.” In the report, it contended that electronics-photonics convergence will determine the future of components, with a functional emphasis on short-reach (<1 km) interconnection through this decade. It indicated that a sustainable photonics industry requires that broad segments collaborate on technologies that support optical interconnection and integrated electronic-photonic signal processing within a high-volume platform.

CTR I predicted that, by 2015, computers and servers will need optical interconnects. One goal of CTR II is to realize technologies that can fill that need. Industry and university members of the Leadership Council outlined business and technology strategies at the first meeting of the program in November. It has been announced that the council will be headed by Jerry Bautista of Intel Corp., based in Santa Clara, Calif.

Two large-scale events will be held annually to continue discussing the development of technology and the insertion of electronics-photonics technologies into markets such as server clusters, image processing, defense and security. One question facing the council is whether standards should be set before applications are created or after market-driven proliferation; a study of the history of standards and their implementation is likely to be commissioned soon to assist with that decision.
Three Technology Working Groups were established to focus on the topics Cross-market Platforms: Technical Requirements & Architectural Options; CMOS (Si) Platform; and Integration, Packaging and Interconnection. Subjects identified for collaborative research projects include Prototypes and Strategies for Low-Cost Rack-to-Rack E-P Interconnection; Design for Electronic-Photonic Convergence; Materials and Process Integration on the CMOS Platform; and Tools to Map Architecture/System Cost Tradeoffs.

CTR II plans to stimulate discussion among participating companies, which may result in the development of shared technologies that can be adapted to future high-volume electronic-photonic applications. MIT professor Lionel Kimerling, director of the Microphotonics Center, said that, if the collaboration brings new technologies to reality, Phase II will be considered a success.


GLOSSARY
optical interconnection
The use of photonic devices rather than electronic devices to make connections within and between integrated circuits.
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