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IBM’s Holey Optochip Achieves One Terabit Per Second

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Prototype optical chip transfers 1Tbps, and the secret’s in the holes, says IBM

IBM scientists will today unveil a prototype chip which they claim is the first parallel optical transceiver capable of transferring one terabit of information per second.

The aptly named Holey Optochip was developed by fabricating 48 holes, or “optical vias”, on a 90-nanometre CMOS transceiver, and will be presented with a report at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference in Los Angeles.

Speed and efficiency

The record high data transfer rate, which is eight times faster than currently available parallel optical components, is achieved by the holes on the chip allowing optical access to 24 850-nanometre vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSEL) and photodiode arrays flip-chip soldered to the Optochip.

“Reaching the one trillion bit per second mark with the Holey Optochip marks IBM’s latest milestone to develop chip-scale transceivers that can handle the volume of traffic in the era of big data,” said IBM researcher Clint Schow in a statement.

“We have been actively pursuing higher levels of integration, power efficiency and performance for all the optical components through packaging and circuit innovations. We aim to improve on the technology for commercialization in the next decade with the collaboration of manufacturing partners.”

In addition to speed, the Optochip boasts compactness and energy efficiency. The chip measures 5.2 millimetres by 5.8 millimetres and IBM reports that it only uses five watts of power. Considering that all the components used are commercially available, thus facilitating scaled production, it believes that the chipset could greatly benefit companies engaged in high-performance operations looking to drive down energy costs.