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IBM Scientist Unveil Terabit Optical Chip

March 8, 2012 by   | Category: Computing

IBM has designed a prototype optical chipset that transfers one terabit of data per second (1Tbit/s).

IBM scientists revealed today that the chipset, dubbed “Holey Optochip”, is the first parallel optical transceiver to transfer one trillion bits of information – or 500 HD movies – per second.

Speaking at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference taking place in Los Angeles today, the scientists reported that the chipset is eight times faster than other parallel optical components available today.

They estimate that the raw speed of one transceiver is equivalent to the bandwidth consumed by 100,000 users at today’s typical 10Mb/s broadband internet access speed. This means it would take just around an hour to transfer the entire US Library of Congress web archive through the transceiver.

According to the boffins, optical networking offers the potential to significantly improve data transfer rates by speeding the flow of data using light pulses instead of sending electrons over wires.

A single 90nm IBM CMOS transceiver IC with 24 receiver and 24 transmitter circuits becomes a Holey Optochip with the fabrication of 48 through-silicon holes, or “optical vias” – one for each transmitter and receiver channel. Simple post-processing on completed CMOS wafers with all devices and standard wiring levels results in an entire wafer populated with Holey Optochips.

The transceiver chip measures only 5.2×5.8mm. Twenty-four channel, industry-standard 850nm VCSEL (vertical cavity surface emitting laser) and photodiode arrays are directly flip-chip soldered to the Optochip. This direct packaging produces high-performance, chip-scale optical engines. The Holey Optochips are designed for direct coupling to a standard 48 channel multimode fibre array through a microlens optical system that can be assembled with conventional high-volume packaging tools.

“By demonstrating unparalleled levels of performance, the Holey Optochip illustrates that high-speed, low-power interconnects are feasible in the near term and optical is the only transmission medium that can stay ahead of the accelerating global demand for broadband,” the researchers said.

“The future of computing will rely heavily on optical chip technology to facilitate the growth of big data and cloud computing and the drive for next-generation data centre applications.”




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