Monday, July 26, 2010

Intel's Silicon Photonics Achieves 50 Gbps Chip Laser Interconnect

Intel Labs has created a silicon-based optical data connection with integrated lasers using Hybrid Silicon Laser technology that can transmit data at 50 Gbps. The prototype device, which is the result of a multi-year silicon photonics research agenda, is composed of a silicon transmitter and a receiver chip.

The transmitter chip is composed of four such lasers, whose light beams each travel into an optical modulator that encodes data onto them at 12.5Gbps. The four beams are then combined and output to a single optical fiber for a total data rate of 50Gbps. At the other end of the link, the receiver chip separates the four optical beams and directs them into photo detectors, which convert data back into electrical signals.

Intel said its chips were assembled using low-cost manufacturing techniques familiar to the semiconductor industry. Intel researchers are already working to increase the data rate by scaling the modulator speed as well as increase the number of lasers per chip, providing a path to future terabit/s optical links.

Intel noted that this silicon photonic project is separate from its Light Peak technology, though both are components of Intel's overall I/O strategy. Light Peak is an effort to bring a multi-protocol 10Gbps optical connection to Intel client platforms for nearer-term applications.