Thursday, July 29, 2010

World's First End-to-End Silicon Photonics Connection from Intel

A couple of days ago Intel unveiled a new prototype which could probably change the era of electronics as we know it. Electronics works on the concept of moving electrons through conductive metals like copper wire etc.This technology has limitations of speed as only data at limited transfer rates (upto 10Gbps) can be transferred through conducting metals. Now with the advent of hi-definition video and audio formats coming closer to becoming standards our bandwidth usage is increasing at really high rates. Copper cables wont keep up with it soon. In facts it is already reaching to its limits as processing power is increasing at exponential rates and these cables are acting like a bottle neck. There is also this problem of signal loss and noise interference over long distances.

So how do we solve this problem? The answer is Photonics, which makes uses of light or photons to transmit information across distances. We already use it in the form of optic fiber which is what keeps the world connected through the internet. Fiber optics actually works by transmitting light emitted by lasers which is what the actual data. The devices that create/convert electrical signals to light signals are called Optical modems. Now these modems are big devices they cannot be used inside a computer or in smaller applications. What Intel has done is created a  really small modem on an Integrated circuit which is the worlds first Silicon Photonics Connection at such a small scale.

How it Works
The trasmitter and recevier module allow data to be transmitted at really high rates like 50Gbps or more! The Photonics transmit module sends laser light from the silicon chip at the center of the green board and travels to the receiver module, where a second silicon chip detects the data on the laser and converts it back into an electrical signal. Now the speed is scalable the Intel prototype works at a speed rate of 50Gbps.

Whats more is the fact that it is completely scalable one modulator can transmit at 12.5Gbps so if you  connect more modulators together you can get even higher speeds
  •  12.5 x4 = 50Gbps
  •  12.5 x8 = 100Gbps
  •  25 x16 = 400Gbps 
  • 40 x25 = 1Tbps!  (its like downloading entire Hard disks in a fraction of a second)
The whole aim of Silicon Photonics research is to use silicon integration to bring dramatic cost reductions, reach terabyte scale data rates, and bring optical communications for more application only thing now is to make it cheaper enough to replace the current technology standards.
As it can not be just cheap but really fast too, the benefits are just endless we cant even imaging where it may take us to.


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