Today, IBM will announce a new process by which they can create a new computer chip with additional optical power. By combining optical links to the standard 90-nanometer chip-making procedure, IBM says they can create a chip capable of transferring data at a remarkable 25 gigabits per second, according to CNET‘s Stephen Shankland.
The notion of combining these two technologies on one chip certainly
isn’t new. IBM’s announcement is significant in that they’ve been able
to do it using standard equipment and a standard process.
The company also says they first plan to use these chips in data centers, multiple servers which are linked together, and supercomputers.
In addition to making an ultra-fast chip, one expert told the BBC
these chips will also be cheaper to make, according to Leo Kelion of BBC News.
IBM will also explain these changes today at the 2012 International Electron Devices Meeting taking place in San Francisco.
This new chip gets most of its speed from the use of optical connections. The use of optics also lends a few other advantages, such as the ability to send larger amounts of data over longer distances.
These advantages have led many data centers to adopt optical connections, replacing their old copper cables.
While transferring data between two optically equipped computers may
be speedy, the data needs to be converted to an electricity-based signal
to be sent to the end user via copper cable. In order to do this, these
data centers have to use specialized equipment.
IBM’s new chip makes use of both copper and optical connections,
meaning this conversion process can happen right on the chip, without
the need for extra equipment.
This ability to manufacture chips with tiny, built-in optronics is called nanophotonics,
and one of IBM’s nanophotonics scientists explains this new process
will help data centers and supercomputers deliver their information even
“When you do an internet search your data goes into a data center and
the information wanted might not be on just one chip or even one rack
of chips,” explained Dr. Solomon Assefa, speaking to the BBC.
“The information may be distributed across this huge data center. The
question is how to connect the chips together and do it fast. You want
your results to come back to you very quickly.”
While they’ve figured out a way to process this quick chip in a cheap
way, IBM also plans to make these chips even faster by improving these
technological advancements and allowing multiple chips to work parallel
of one another.
The company has been hard at work for over a decade researching this
process and working out a way to produce such a chip. The company then
began to build this chip earlier this year at an existing semiconductor
In his interview with the BBC, Dr. Assefa said this sort of research
needs to be done to keep up with the speed Internet-based products
“Its driven by applications and services that continue to grow, be it
search, video content, cloud computing, social networks, business
analytics – all these use huge amount of data,” said Dr. Assefa.
“For our computer servers to keep up with this growth, so that we can
actually make sense of the data through analytics and so forth, we need
to have a new technology.”
For now, this technology will remain in the hands of the data centers
and supercomputers of the world. However, Dr. Assefa also said his
company is working on a way to bring these new chips to consumers within
the next few years.