Sunday, March 16, 2008

IBM Develops Nanophotonic Switch for Multi-Core Chips

Researchers at IBM have developed a nanophotonic switch for routing optical data between cores in future computer chips. Like a long-haul fiber-optic network, such an extremely miniature on-chip network will transmit, receive, and route messages between individual cores that are encoded as a pulses of light. IBM estimates that by using light instead of wires, as much as 100 times more information can be sent between cores, while using 10 times less power and consequently generating less heat.

The report on this work, entitled "High-throughput silicon nanophotonic wavelength-insensitive switch for on-chip optical networks" by Yurii Vlasov, William M. J. Green, and Fengnian Xia of IBM's T.J.WatsonResearchCenter in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. is published in the April 2008 issue of the journal Nature Photonics. This work was partially supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) through the Defense Sciences Office program "Slowing, Storing and Processing Light".

IBM said its researchers have demonstrated several critical characteristics for the nanophotonic switch. First, the switch is extremely compact -- as many as 2000 would fit side-by-side in an area of one square millimeter. Second, the device is able to route many wavelengths simultaneously. With each wavelength carrying data at up to 40 Gbps, it is possible to switch an aggregate bandwidth exceeding 1 Tbps.

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