IBM Photonics (That’s SOI!) Ready for Cloud, Big Data Apps

Cassette carrying several hundred chips intended for 100 Gb/s transceivers, diced from wafers fabricated with IBM SOI-CMOS Integrated Nano-Photonics Technology. The dense monolithic integration of optical and electrical circuits and the scalable manufacturing process provide a cost-effective silicon photonics interconnect solution, suitable for deployment in cloud servers, datacenters, and supercomputers. (US quarter coin shown for scale.) (Courtesy: IBM)

For the first time, IBM engineers have designed and tested a fully integrated wavelength multiplexed silicon photonics chip, which the company says will soon enable manufacturing of 100 Gb/s optical transceivers (read the press release here). This will allow datacenters to offer greater data rates and bandwidth for cloud computing and Big Data applications.

Early in the program (back in 2007), IBM contributed a piece to ASN about why their photonics program is on SOI – you can read that here. (Most all photonics — except the lasers — are on SOI. You can read more ASN photonics pieces from Intel and others here.)

Silicon photonics greatly reduces data bottlenecks inside of systems and between computing components, improving response times and delivering faster insights from Big Data. IBM’s breakthrough enables the integration of different optical components side-by-side with electrical circuits on a single silicon chip using sub-100nm semiconductor technology.

IBM’s silicon photonics chips uses four distinct colors of light travelling within an optical fiber, rather than traditional copper wiring, to transmit data in and around a computing system. In just one second, this new transceiver is estimated to be capable of digitally sharing 63 million tweets or six million images, or downloading an entire high-definition digital movie in just two seconds.

IBM presented details at the recent 2015 Conference on Lasers and Electro Optics.

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