Intel makes silicon optical switching breakthrough
Intel has developed new silicon chip that switches light instead of electricity.
The device Intel has built is the prototype of a high-speed silicon optical modulator that the company has now pushed above two billion bits per second at a lab near its headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif. The modulator makes it possible to switch off and on a tiny laser beam and direct it into an ultrathin glass fiber. Although the technical report in Nature focuses on the modulator, which is only one component of a networking system, Intel plans on demonstrating a working system transmitting a movie in high-definition television over a five-mile coil of fiberoptic cable next week at its annual Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.
The key breakthrough for Intel is the fact that the modulator was built using standard silicon instead of the more exotic and expensive materials typically used in optical modulators. Intel can apparently produce the modulators at "computer industry prices," which means that fiberoptic interconnects and interfaces may be in the cards for a new generation of PCs and peripheral devices.