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IBM introduces prototype of Optical Processor

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Research Division of IBM has created a prototype of an optical processor that can transmit terabits Of data every second, using an unusual design with 48 small holes in a standard CMOS-chip, which is conducted through the light.

IBM created a prototype of the Optical processor which is much faster and more efficient than today’s processors in computers and servers. In the optical chip IBM has been implemented technology, which IBM calls itself Holey Optochip and plans to create a future based on its supercomputers. Optical chips work, operating with photons of light instead of the traditional electrons. Typically, optical chips are now used to a limited network of electronics, working with fiber-optic communication lines, as well as supercomputing nodes that require instantaneous transmission of huge amounts of information.

One of the advantages of optical technology is that the they can be used at very large distances, and devices that work with the light itself is very small and consume the least electricity.IBM predicts, after 10 years of the most powerful supercomputer of that time to work is the optical chips, whereas 10 years ago, supercomputers do without optical connections at all. Clint Shaw, manager of IBM Optical Links Group, said that the key advantage of optical processors to the latest chips is their ultra-wide bandwidth, meaning they can handle very large streams of data without increasing the size of the processor and no growth in consumption of electricity. With these systems you can create a system with very high parallelize tasks.Created prototype of Holey Optochip consumes only 4.7 watts (about as a processor in a smartphone or tablet), but it is capable of processing about 1 trillion bits per second, i.e transfer of approximately 500 HD-movies. Dimensions of the chip just 5.2 x5, 8 mm.

“The heart of the chip – the usual CMOS-IC.Basic chip has all the electrical functions for working with optical mechanisms,” – says Shaw. Light holes in the processor produced by the currently used 850-nm lasers. In the created holes photo diode are placed in arrays, combined with the special receivers to decode the signals. “We need a hole, as usual silicon substrate, which is created from the chip does not transmit light through the holes and the light passes unhindered” – say from IBM.Now established optical version of the chip has 48 channels (connections between emitters and receivers), each of which provides the performance of 20 gigabits per second, for a total of 960 gigabits per second.

The prototype chip is unveiled at the IBM Optical Fiber Communications Conference in Los Angeles. Shaw said that the achieved rates are not limiting in the future the company intends to increase the performance of a single channel 25 Gbit / s. “If we forget about the consumption, the chip can be very fast, on the other hand, if performance is not so important, you can create a processor with a unique consumer economy”, – he said. Earlier, IBM presented prototypes of optical processors with capacity of 160 Gbit / s s (2007) and 300 Gbit / s (2010). Of course, while such chips are not focused on mass production, but the company estimates that in the case of mass production processors can cost around $ 100-200. “We are confident that with the performance of such solutions can grow exponentially computers” – says Shaw.

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