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DoE’s Research Agency Awards $25M in Photonics Funds

Photonics.com
Jun 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 6, 2017 — The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) is investing $25 million in nine different photonics-driven efforts to improve the efficiency of data centers.

Dubbed “Energy-Efficient Light-Wave Integrated Technology Enabling Networks that Enhance Datacenters” (ENLITENED), the program of work under director Michael Haney is intended to develop technologies to help reduce energy consumption in the data centers, now said to be responsible for 2.5 percent of all electricity in the U.S.

Photonics-based chip-to-chip interconnects ought to be far more efficient than current electrical equivalents, and have the potential to greatly reduce energy consumption in data centers.
Photonics-based chip-to-chip interconnects ought to be far more efficient than current electrical equivalents, and have the potential to greatly reduce energy consumption in data centers. Courtesy of ARPA-E.

With the proliferation of cloud computing services, that figure is expected to double in just eight years, while current efforts to improve energy efficiency will ultimately be limited by the metal interconnects used to transmit information at the chip level.

“ENLITENED seeks to overcome these limitations by advancing high-density, energy-efficient photonic interconnects and related novel network designs that take advantage of integrated photonics technologies,” ARPA-E said in a statement. “Because photonic interconnects do not rely on electrons flowing through metal to transmit information, instead relying on light, it is possible to transmit information with far greater speed and bandwidth using significantly less energy. If successful, ENLITENED projects could result in an overall doubling in data center energy efficiency [in ten years].”

The nine projects include several aimed at developing silicon photonics and chip-scale modules designed to replace traditional electronic interconnects. Funding recipients include Ayar Labs Inc.; Columbia University; IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center 1; IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center 2; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Santa Barbara; the University of California, San Diego; and the University of Southern California.

ARPA-E advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. ARPA-E awardees develop new ways to generate, store, and use energy to radically improve U.S. economic prosperity, national security and environmental well-being.


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