Intel demonstrates photonic connectors to replace copper in computer components

Intel demonstrates photonic connectors to replace copper in computer components

How about transmitting 6.25GB in a second? The time it took you to read this sentence would be enough for a full-length 720p movie to be transferred, using the new photon chip technology demonstrated today by Intel. It is still in the early stages, but the possibility of having connections between components transmitting data at 50Gbps is promising but does not stop, as the chip maker is eyeing the 1Tbps mark! (4k, any?)

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The possibilities that such an advance brings are alluring: the availability of high-performance optical fiber in the future will be able to drive the design of the machines we use on a daily basis, from netbooks to servers. Today's internal components are interconnected by wires or copper strips, which limits the distance they can keep from each other.

"The fundamental problem is that electronic signals that depend on copper wires are reaching their physical limits," said Justin Ratner, head of technology at Intel. "Fotnica gives us the ability to move vast amounts of information from one place to another in a room or on the planet, at extremely high speeds and in an affordable manner."

Replacing such cables with optical fibers would change everything we know about computer design. Cable tangles, for example, will be a thing of the past. I mean, for a while, we even need 50Tbps connections for something, but we will eventually need it. 15 years ago you should have thought that a DVD was practically an unlimited reservoir of memory.

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The current stage of photonic chips works as follows: each module has a silicon transmitter and a receiver chip. The transmitter fires lasers in an optical modulator that encodes the information at 12.5Gbps. The lasers are then transmitted to the receiver, where they are separated and directed to optical detectors that retrieve the information, transforming it into good old electrical signals.

Intel currently employs four-color lasers for transmissions, but the tendency is to use more different wavelengths and, by increasing the number of transmitted light beams, to achieve the desired connection speeds. But things are already going very well: "In labs, we run tests for 27 hours without errors and transfer about an information petabit," said Mario Paniccia, director of Intel's Photonics lab. "And that at room temperature, with nothing much in the cooling system."

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If with all this talk of "light" and "lasers" you are thinking about Light Peak technology, calm down: it and research with photonic chips are independent projects at Intel. In addition, Light Peak is something for a much closer future and to come to connect peripherals to computers.

In any case, when 10Gbps LIght Peak connectors hit the market, we will already have something better and more powerful to wish for. And the Red Queen's Race will continue, to the horror of your bank account.

(via Wired)