Intel Design Speedy Silicon Based Photonic Device for Data Communications

Researchers at Intel have created the world’s fastest silicon-based photonic device which could have major implications on corporate data centres and eventually filter down to personal computers. The technology would see data sent between devices in the form of light.

Using light-based communications technology more like that seen in fibre optics, the researchers believe they will be able to achieve data transfer rates of up to 10 billion bits per second within months. This goes some way to creating devices that move data around inside a computer at the speed of light.

Conventional systems rely on electrical signals or electrons flowing down copper cables. The new technology relies on photons which are not susceptible to data-slowing interference and can travel further.

The device built and used by the Intel team uses infrared light which passes through a modulator which effectively converts it into a digital signal comprising ones and zeros. The light beam is split into two as it passes through the silicon. The beam is then recombined and exits the silicon going on and off at the frequency of 1GHz.

While the current device can communicate data at 1GHz, the researchers believe they can increase this to 10GHz. Furthermore, the use of fibre optics overcomes the difficulties of electromagnetic interference associated with conventional high speed copper interconnects.

The use of silicon, which is now widely used and available significantly reduces the cost of the photonics making them more affordable. Existing fibre optic technologies use exotic materials which are still very expensive.

For more information on fibre optics, click here.

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