02:05 AM

Intel Laser Breakthrough Will Lead To Faster Internet And Computers

On the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser, Intel has demonstrated a breakthrough photonics chip set that offers 50 gigabits per second built using standard chip making techniques.

Justin Rattner, VP and Chief Technology Officer at Intel, said:"This technology can be scaled to as much as one terabit per second." He said that photonics is key to faster computers because it is difficult to move electrons fast enough but light can be moved faster over longer distances.

The key to Intel's breakthrough is that the chips can be built using standard manufacturing processes. Intel is the world leader in chip manufacturing technologies allowing it to build these photonics systems at large manufacturing scales, which brings down their cost.

The 50Gbps Silicon Photonics Link prototype is the result of a multi-year silicon photonics research agenda, which included numerous "world firsts." It is composed of a silicon transmitter and a receiver chip, each integrating all the necessary building blocks from previous Intel breakthroughs including the first Hybrid Silicon Laser co-developed with the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2006 as well as high-speed optical modulators and photodetectors announced in 2007.

More details here:

Silicon Photonics Research

From Intel:

- Up to 50 gigabits of data per second is the equivalent of an entire HD movie being transmitted each second.

- At these data rates one could imagine a wall-sized 3D display for home entertainment and videoconferencing with a resolution so high that the actors or family members appear to be in the room with you.

- Tomorrow's data center or supercomputer may see components spread throughout a building or even an entire campus, communicating with each other at high speed, as opposed to being confined by heavy copper cables with limited capacity and reach.

- This will allow data center users, such as a search engine company, cloud computing provider or financial data center, to increase performance, capabilities and save significant costs in space and energy, or help scientists build more powerful supercomputers to solve the world's biggest problems.

- At a terabit per second it would take just 90 seconds to download the entire library of congress.

Foremski's Take: It's an impressive achievement but it could be years before consumers see the benefits of this technology. The Telcos are loathe to offer faster bandwidth, the US has some of the slowest speeds.

But Intel says it has an "aggressive plan" to bring costs down and see it widely deployed by the middle of the decade.