IBM says light will drive future PCs

IBM says light will drive future PCs

IBM - developing CPU parts based on light and not electricity.

In an article published in the trade journal Optics Express, IBM has announced that it is developing technology that may replace current electronic chips in future computers. Rather than using electrical connections, which are prone to overheating and EMI problems, the company is planning to produce processors that use light to carry out calculations.

Using micro-miniaturised Mach-Zehnder electro-optic modulators, IBM hopes to produce chips which are capable of running up to one hundred times faster than is currently possible with traditional CPUs, and some three times faster than the gains promised by recent research into 3D processors.

The best news is yet to come: the new chips will do all this and consume somewhere in the region of a tenth the power of current CPUs. Less power means less heat, which in turn means you can cram more horsepower into a smaller area without worrying about things melting down.

You'll have a bit of a wait on your hands for the new light-based superchip, however: the head honcho of the project, Will Green, is predicting commercial availability “in the timeframe of 10 to 15 years.” Initial batches of the chip have been earmarked by, surprise surprise, the high-tech branch of the Department of Defense - DARPA - who is partially funding the research project.

To allow Will to blow his own trumpet for a moment: “Just like fibre optic networks have enabled the rapid expansion of the Internet by enabling users to exchange huge amounts of data from anywhere in the world, IBM's technology is bringing similar capabilities to the computer chip.

While the research is clearly aimed at customers who need big-budget supercomputers, it'll be interesting to see how and when it trickles down to the retail level.

Which technology are you betting on – 3D processors or light-based computing? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.


Discuss in the forums Reply
Arkanrais 11th December 2007, 09:45 Quote
my only questions are "what is the overclocking like?" and how much/when.
Blademrk 11th December 2007, 10:03 Quote
Overclocking light = Laser :D
culley 11th December 2007, 10:53 Quote
It does make you think though, what will technology be like in 15-20 years, it's quite amazing.
makkone- 11th December 2007, 11:33 Quote
sounds good to me. I think there's no reason to oc those beasts :P (overclocking with mag-lite)? ;D
kosch 11th December 2007, 13:17 Quote
I can just imagine overclocking disaster stories "yeah I ramped the power up for the laser which then proceeded to burn through my case, my house and half of the street"
ou7blaze 11th December 2007, 15:16 Quote
I'm liking the sound of this. Solid state drives becoming affordable, and now light instead of electrical connections in processors.

Whilst the computer probably won't look THAT much different inside it certainly will in performance ...

I also wonder what the future generation consoles will use, same technology? When will consoles be able to tap into this kind of technology? PS6?

I just wonder when we can possibly afford this in shops and when it will make an impact to us normal consumers :/
Redbeaver 11th December 2007, 15:23 Quote
Originally Posted by Blademrk
Overclocking light = Laser :D


*Conversation in 2020
look, i oc'd my 40Ghz CPU to 60!! now lets run Prime190 for 8hrs.......
hey, whats that beam coming out of my PC?
*beam shoots thro the back of case all the way through neighbour house*
chrisb2e9 11th December 2007, 16:54 Quote
in 10 to 15 years games will be at the point where instead of graphic designers having to draw textures, they can just go out with a 100MP camera and take pictures of what they want in the game. cant wait.
sinizterguy 11th December 2007, 17:15 Quote
100mp is not so far off - you can already 40+ mp cameras. Stitch up some images and you can anything gigapixel plus (such images are already there).
M_D_K 11th December 2007, 18:16 Quote
some dude made like a 130mp cam with a scanner i believe, although took a few hours to take a pic lol.
Amon 11th December 2007, 18:18 Quote
I gotta see what IBM has in mind to make a small enough computer out of this concept.
Cobalt 11th December 2007, 20:57 Quote
Sorry for being synical but how is this news? Optical computing is a concept that has been around for decades...
-equilerex- 11th December 2007, 22:18 Quote
Originally Posted by Cobalt
Sorry for being synical but how is this news? Optical computing is a concept that has been around for decades...

one of the main pc firms starting active research with support from the government(that has limitless resources) and they gave a loose time schedule for the completion... thats ****ing huge news imo.

ahh, but this thing sounds awesome, seems like all the sci-fi series like stargate atlantis and stuff have been going in the right direction with their light and christal scheme
The_Beast 11th December 2007, 22:24 Quote
How will it run Window??? :?
proxess 12th December 2007, 08:04 Quote
you can't run windows, the light will beam out the window and it'll never work. you can run linux as the penguin will deflect the light and make everything work.
The_Beast 12th December 2007, 23:07 Quote
the laser would chop the penguin in half ;)
rhuitron 13th December 2007, 01:17 Quote
Fukin SHWEET!!!!

Clear/Transparent Pc parts!!!
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