Intel Corp. researchers are a step closer to creating chips that transmit data at high speeds using light instead of electrons, but products based on the technology appear to remain over the horizon. On Wednesday, a team of Intel researchers unveiled a laser modulator made of silicon that is capable of encoding data at speeds up to 40G bits per second (bps), a significant increase in speed for the company.
The new modulator, which converts electrical data into light, opens the door to high-speed optical interconnects for computers and, when combined with 25 hybrid silicon lasers on a single chip, could be capable of transmitting terabits of data per second, wrote Ansheng Liu, principal engineer at Intel's Corporate Technology Group, in a blog post. Optical interconnects are desirable because fiber optics offer more bandwidth and carry data farther than copper, which is currently used to connect chips and move data inside a computer. Because they use laser light to transmit data, optical interconnects also eliminate the heat created by resistance as electrons pass through a copper trace.