One of the problems faced in data transported across short electrical wires is the limited bandwidth and power density, which creates a performance bottleneck in the semiconductor microchips. This report covers how a scientist team has demonstrated these limitations can be overcome by using optical communications based on chip-scale electronic–photonic systems enabled by silicon-based nanophotonic devices that is an electronic–photonic system on a single chip integrating over 70 million transistors and 850 photonic components that work together to provide logic, memory, and interconnect functions. This system is a realization of a microprocessor that uses on-chip photonic devices to directly communicate with other chips using light.
Optical computing is not a new technology as demonstrated by researchers at the universities of California Berkeley and MIT. They have developed a methodology to have made it work on a more practical level. “This is a milestone. It’s the first processor that can use light to communicate with the external world,” said Vladimir Stojanović, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California, Berkeley who led the collaborative team in this research. “No other processor has photonic I/O in the chip.”
The photonic transmissions are built onto a single chip that also integrates traditional electronics, so it could in theory work with other standard electronic components and integrate into current manufacturing processes. “It’s the first processor that can use light to communicate with the external world,” Vladimir Stojanović, the University of California professor who led the collaboration, said in a press release. “No other processor has photonic I/O in the chip.”