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IBM debuts CMOS silicon nanophotonics

December 01, 2010 // R. Colin Johnson

IBM debuts CMOS silicon nanophotonics

Silicon chips will be communicating with pulses of light instead of electrical charge starting in 2011, according to International Business Machines Corp., which just described its CMOS Integrated Silicon Nanophotonics (CISN) technology.


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At Semicon Japan in Chiba, Japan, IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) heralded silicon nanophotonics as the enabler for future exascale processors that can execute a million trillion operations per second (1,000-times faster than today's petascale supercomputers).

"The CMOS silicon nanophotonics technology we have developed at IBM can meet the requirements for exascale systems, by scaling up per-chip transceiver bandwidth and integration density," said Will Green, an IBM researcher involved with the CISN project. Green worked on CISN with Yurii Vlasov, manager of silicon integrated nanophotonics at its T.J Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., and fellow researchers Solomon Assefa, Alexander Rylakov, Clint Schow and Folkert Horst.

For nearly a decade, IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., Freescale Semiconductor Inc., NEC Electronics Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., IMEC and dozens of their partnersfrom Avago Technologies Ltd. to Luxtera Inc.have promised silicon photonics as the inevitable future of CMOS. By integrating electrical-to-optical and optical-to-electrical transceivers onto traditional CMOS chips, silicon photonics promises to break the bottleneck now holding back development of exascale computing platforms. IBM now claims to have solved this problem with its CISN technology which is currently being licensing to partners, and which will begin to appear in commercial transceivers starting in 2011.

"The situation is similar to when Marconi demonstrated the first transatlantic radio transmission," said Rick Doherty, principal analyst at The Envisioneering Group (Seaford, N.Y.). "Today there are oceans separating our digital systems, boards and chips, but now IBM has proven that optical interconnects can crossover those oceans using traditional, integrated CMOS lithography."



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