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Intel to fund silicon photonics centre

Intel to fund silicon photonics centre

Intel's Light Peak technology has already dabbled with optical connections, but photonics could also enable optical connections inside chips.

Intel is co-funding a research and production centre at the University of Washington, which it hopes will lead to breakthroughs in the field of silicon photonics.

The deal, which was reported this week in Chip Design Magazine, will see Intel dip into its recent monster profits to fund the foundation of the Optoelectronics Systems Integration in Silicon (OpSIS) Centre at the University, designed as the silicon photonics equivalent of the Metal Oxide Semiconductor Implementation Service Centre at the University of Southern California.

Rather than relying on electrical connections between components, photonics instead transfers data over optical connections. Intel has already dabbled with high-speed optical data connections with its Light Peak technology, but it's hoped that photonics could enable optical connections inside mass-produced chips as well.

Michael Hochberg, assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University, stated that the University would 'like the photonics industry, 10 years from now, to function in a way that’s very similar to the electronics industry today. People building optoelectronic systems will send designs out to an inexpensive, reliable third party for manufacturing, so they can focus on being creative about the design.'

Intel's chief technology officer Justin Rattner was also confident about the success of the project, claiming 'OpSIS will enhance the education of US engineering students, giving them the opportunity to learn the new optical design paradigm. The ability to produce such low-cost silicon chips that manipulate photons, instead of electrons, will lead to new inventions and new industries beyond just data communications, including low-cost sensors, new biomedical devices and ultra-fast signal processors.'

Intel is far from the only company investing in optical computing and silicon photonics, though. Back in 2007, IBM announced the creation of a micro-miniaturised Mach-Zenhder electro-optic modulator, which it hoped would lead to a revolution in optical computing technology.

Once up to speed, the OpSIS Centre looks to offer three production runs per year, each capable of making chips for 30-40 users. Meanwhile, the physical production will be left in the hands of BAE Systems.

Are you pleased to see Intel looking into the potential of silicon photonics, or should the company be spending its money elsewhere? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

8 Comments

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kosch 2nd February 2011, 12:20 Quote
1+ for R&D. Now only if someone would dump a huge amount of money into energy generation!
Parge 2nd February 2011, 12:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by kosch
1+ for R&D. Now only if someone would dump a huge amount of money into energy generation!

And batteries. Someone please to god find a way to make my smartphone last longer than a day!
TWeaK 2nd February 2011, 13:20 Quote
Both of those technologies already have shed loads of money being poured into them. Some people say that battery technology makes 3 years' worth of advancements each year - though that doesn't mean it's cheap or viable for small devices yet. Even car batteries still have a way to go and I'll be laughing when people go to sell their Prius' only to find that they're pretty much worthless as they'll need replacement batteries which cost a couple grand.

This is all really interesting with all of Intel's recent investment. Really making me consider whether I go work or if I should continue further study in the US.

Also, I thought BAE pretty much just built ships for the armed forces, I didn't know they also manufactured components..
RichCreedy 2nd February 2011, 13:25 Quote
BAE are into alsorts, not just ships, but aircraft, avionics, missile guidance systems etc etc.
Technobod 2nd February 2011, 13:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by kosch
And batteries. Someone please to god find a way to make my smartphone last longer than a day!

Use it less ;)
l3v1ck 3rd February 2011, 02:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by kosch
1+ for R&D. Now only if someone would dump a huge amount of money into energy generation!
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/01/china_thorium_bet/
The Chinese seem to be onto that ;)
maximus09 3rd February 2011, 10:52 Quote
how energy efficient is this over conventional methods?
Kaiwan 3rd February 2011, 11:03 Quote
I love new technologies. I hope this takes off and there are actual gains from it.
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