“Provides enormous cost-benefits and advantage over traditional photonic systems”
A pair of breakthroughs in the field of silicon photonics by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Micron Technology Inc. could allow for the trajectory of exponential improvement in microprocessors that began nearly half a century ago—known as Moore’s Law—to continue well into the future, allowing for increasingly faster electronics, from supercomputers to laptops to smartphones.
The research team, led by CU-Boulder researcher Milos Popovic, an assistant professor of electrical, computer and energy engineering, developed a new technique that allows microprocessors to use light, instead of electrical wires, to communicate with transistors on a single chip, a system that could lead to extremely energy-efficient computing and a continued skyrocketing of computing speed into the future.
Popovic and his colleagues created two different optical modulators—structures that detect electrical signals and translate them into optical waves—that can be fabricated within the same processes already used in industry to create today’s state-of-the-art electronic microprocessors. The modulators are described in a recent issue of the journal Optics Letters.
First laid out in 1965, Moore’s Law predicted that the size of the transistors used in microprocessors could be shrunk by half about every two years for the same production cost, allowing twice as many transistors to be placed on the same-sized silicon chip. The net effect would be a doubling of computing speed every couple of years.
The projection has held true until relatively recently. While transistors continue to get smaller, halving their size today no longer leads to a doubling of computing speed. That’s because the limiting factor in microelectronics is now the power that’s needed to keep the microprocessors running. The vast amount of electricity required to flip on and off tiny, densely packed transistors causes excessive heat buildup.
“The transistors will keep shrinking and they’ll be able to continue giving you more and more computing performance,” Popovic said. “But in order to be able to actually take advantage of that you need to enable energy-efficient communication links.”
Microelectronics also are limited by the fact that placing electrical wires that carry data too closely together can result in “cross talk” between the wires.
In the last half-dozen years, microprocessor manufacturers, such as Intel, have been able to continue increasing computing speed by packing more than one microprocessor into a single chip to create multiple “cores.” But that technique is limited by the amount of communication that then becomes necessary between the microprocessors, which also requires hefty electricity consumption.
Using light waves instead of electrical wires for microprocessor communication functions could eliminate the limitations now faced by conventional microprocessors and extend Moore’s Law into the future, Popovic said.
Optical communication circuits, known as photonics, have two main advantages over communication that relies on conventional wires: Using light has the potential to be brutally energy efficient, and a single fiber-optic strand can carry a thousand different wavelengths of light at the same time, allowing for multiple communications to be carried simultaneously in a small space and eliminating cross talk.
Optical communication is already the foundation of the Internet and the majority of phone lines. But to make optical communication an economically viable option for microprocessors, the photonics technology has to be fabricated in the same foundries that are being used to create the microprocessors. Photonics have to be integrated side-by-side with the electronics in order to get buy-in from the microprocessor industry, Popovic said.
“In order to convince the semiconductor industry to incorporate photonics into microelectronics you need to make it so that the billions of dollars of existing infrastructure does not need to be wiped out and redone,” Popovic said.
Last year, Popovic collaborated with scientists at MIT to show, for the first time, that such integration is possible. “We are building photonics inside the exact same process that they build microelectronics in,” Popovic said. “We use this fabrication process and instead of making just electrical circuits, we make photonics next to the electrical circuits so they can talk to each other.”
In two papers published last month in Optics Letters with CU-Boulder postdoctoral researcher Jeffrey Shainline as lead author, the research team refined their original photonic-electronic chip further, detailing how the crucial optical modulator, which encodes data on streams of light, could be improved to become more energy efficient. That optical modulator is compatible with a manufacturing process—known as Silicon-on-Insulator Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor, or SOI CMOS—used to create state-of-the-art multicore microprocessors such as the IBM Power7 and Cell, which is used in the Sony PlayStation 3.
The Latest on: Faster electronics
JPEG XS will be a faster format for 8K streaming, better VR, and safer drones
on April 18, 2018 at 10:25 am
The faster streams and reduced latency aren’t just for live ... and professional-grade cameras. Consumer electronics will come next, including self-driving cars, virtual reality, augmented reality, and wireless connections between multimedia devices ... […]
IBM's new in-memory computing solution makes business AI training faster, easier
on April 18, 2018 at 6:05 am
IBM's mixed-precision in-memory computing concept could make training AI systems faster and less costly ... new hybrid concept developed by IBM scientists and published in Nature Electronics could make it far easier to run analytics and machine learning ... […]
Tempo Closes $20M Series B to Build New Connected Factory in San Francisco For Electronics Manufacturing
on April 17, 2018 at 8:25 am
Tempo is transforming the electronics industry and their new factory will finally ... This makes it possible for engineers to explore & realize ideas faster and better than ever. Tempo's investors include P72 Ventures (Series B Lead), Lux Capital (Series ... […]
New Keithley KickStart 2.0 Software Removes Complexity from Multi-Instrument Setup, Fast Data Visualization
on April 17, 2018 at 7:02 am
In today's fast-paced electronics industry, design and test engineers have little time to learn the ins and outs of test instrumentation or write custom programs for managing complex test routines involving multiple instruments. Moreover, many users are ... […]
Tempo raises $20 million to open connected electronics factory in San Francisco
on April 16, 2018 at 10:00 pm
Tempo, a low-volume electronics manufacturer ... today’s leading companies are racing to get their ideas and concepts to market faster,” said Tempo CEO Jeff McAlvay, in a statement. “Yet the tools to design and manufacture hardware have not improved ... […]
Wye Oak Delves Inward and Opens Up on ‘The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs’
on April 12, 2018 at 4:06 pm
“Tween,” a 2016 collection of eight outtakes recorded from 2011-14, revealed paths the band had rejected for “Shriek,” with songs that enfolded electronics in broad strokes of guitar. Now, with “The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs,” Wye Oak ... […]
LG Launches Software Upgrade Center To Bring Faster Android Updates To Customers
on April 12, 2018 at 2:22 pm
LG Electronics has opened its new Software Upgrade Center in South Korea. The facility promises to bring faster software updates to LG’s Android phones all over the world. “Located in LG’s new research and development campus in Magok-dong ... […]
LG Software Upgrade division promises faster Android updates
on April 12, 2018 at 11:51 am
LG Electronics has announced the launch of its new South Korea ... It’s no surprise that LG is emphasizing software testing and compatibility alongside faster updates with its new division. Still, many competing products, including the latest Galaxy ... […]
LG opens Software Upgrade Center to deliver faster Android updates
on April 12, 2018 at 8:01 am
LG Electronics has officially opened a new facility in Seoul, South Korea dedicated to working on software updates. The Software Upgrade Center is part of LG's Magok-dong campus located in western Seoul. The new building will house developers responsible ... […]
LG Electronics : OPENS GLOBAL SOFTWARE UPGRADE CENTER FOR FASTER SMARTPHONE UPDATES
on April 11, 2018 at 6:12 pm
SEOUL, Apr. 12, 2018 - LG Electronics (LG) today opened the doors to its new Software Upgrade Center in South Korea, the first such facility aimed at providing customers worldwide with faster, timelier, smartphone operating system and software updates. […]
via Google News and Bing News