Thursday, December 4, 2008

Intel Develops Silicon-based "Avalanche" Photonics

Researchers at Intel have developed a silicon-based Avalanche Photodetector (APD) that could be used to provide high-capacity optical communications between processor cores. The APD is a light sensor that achieves superior sensitivity by detecting light and amplifying weak signals as light is directed onto silicon.

Intel used silicon and CMOS processing to achieve a "gain-bandwidth product" of 340 GHz -- the best result ever measured for this key APD performance metric, according to the company. Intel said this opens the door to lower the cost of optical links running at data rates of 40 Gbps or higher and proves, for the first time, that a silicon photonics device can exceed the performance of a device made with traditional, more expensive optical materials such as indium phosphide.

"These fundamental scientific advances made by our silicon photonics team give me confidence that for decades to come, we will have the communications and I/O bandwidths to match the continued increases in computing performance provided by Moore's law," stated Justin Rattner, Intel Senior Fellow, Vice President, Director, Corporate Technology Group and Intel Chief Technology Officer.

Intel's research results were published in Nature Photonics.