Supercomputers may one day be the size of a laptop thanks to research by IBM. Scientists at IBM have completed work that may make it possible to do away with the copper wires used to couple processing cores to each other. The connector created by the team uses light to pass data between the computational cores that is faster and uses less power than copper wires. The device is smaller than previously demonstrated connectors promising to shrink future computational clusters.
The IBM development, reported in the journal Optics Express, could replace the copper wires that connect cores with a device that converts electrical signals to pulses of light. The device, called a silicon Mach-Zehnder electro-optic modulator, is many times smaller than previously produced convertors. "What we have done is a significant step toward building a vastly smaller and more power-efficient way to connect those cores, in a way nobody has done before," said Dr Tze-chiang Chen, a spokesman for IBM's science and technology research division.