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Optical Chipset Transfers 1 Terabit of Information

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LOS ANGELES, March 8, 2012 — A prototype optical chipset that uses light rather than electrons sent over wires is the first parallel optical transceiver to transfer data at 1 Tb/s — the equivalent of downloading 500 high-definition movies.

Developed at IBM and dubbed the “Holey Optochip,” the device consists of both a transmitter and a receiver, and it is designed to handle large amounts of data created and transmitted over corporate and consumer networks as a result of new applications and services. It is expected to power future cloud computing and data center applications.

Photomicrograph of IBM Holey Optochip. Original chip dimensions are 5.2 x 5.8 mm. (Images: PRNewsFoto/IBM)

Using a novel approach, scientists at IBM labs developed the prototype by fabricating 48 holes through a standard 90-nm silicon CMOS chip. The holes allow optical access through the back of the chip to 24 receiver and 24 transmitter channels, IBM said.

The module is constructed with components that are commercially available, offering the possibility of manufacturing it at economies of scale, the company said. The transceiver also meets green computing objectives, consuming less than 5 W.

Photomicrograph of the back of the IBM Holey Optochip with lasers and photodetectors visible through substrate holes.

“Reaching the 1 trillion bit per second mark with the Holey Optochip marks IBM’s latest milestone to develop chip-scale transceivers that can handle the volume of traffic in the era of big data,” said Clint Schow. He is an IBM researcher and a member of the team that built the prototype. “We have been actively pursuing higher levels of integration, power efficiency and performance for all the optical components through packaging and circuit innovations.”

Over the next decade, and with the collaboration of manufacturing partners, IBM aims to improve the technology for commercialization.

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Mar 2012
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
1 Tbps1 terabit per secondAmericasBusinessCaliforniaClint Schowcloud computingconsumer networkscorporate networksdata center applicationsfiber opticsgreen computingHoley OptochipIBMindustriallight pulsesoptical chipsoptical circuitsoptical componentsoptical receiveroptical transmitteropticsparallel optical transceiverphotonicsResearch & TechnologySensors & Detectorssilicon CMOS chip

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