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Summary:

HP is trying to eliminate copper on semiconductors to make them run faster, and today the company is gathering about 150 researchers at its Palo Alto campus to push lasers as a means to do this. If it and chip manufacturers such as Intel, IBM and […]

HP is trying to eliminate copper on semiconductors to make them run faster, and today the company is gathering about 150 researchers at its Palo Alto campus to push lasers as a means to do this. If it and chip manufacturers such as Intel, IBM and Luxtera succeed, the chip firms will follow in the telcos footsteps, turning to light to transmit information quickly.

Only, in this instance, the light would provide short-haul transport on a chipset measured in nanometers or millimeters rather than over distances of miles. Lasers could replace the copper connecting multiple processing engines inside a chip, but could also act as interconnects between multiple chips on a board. Light pulses provided by a laser could reduce the bill of materials (if adapted for silicon), power consumption and solve some of the problems associated with following Moore’s Law because it reduces some of the materials needed on a chip. Improved chips mean more computing power and a faster, more dynamic web.

Such efforts are in the early stages with real products likely 10 years out. However, it isn’t so far-fetched. Already Infinera, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company whose products are sold to telecommunications companies, makes an optical chip, but it builds its chips on a far more expensive substrate than a silicon wafer.

  1. Stacey – you should take a look at a company called Luxtera. Frank

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  2. SUN has an interesting effort in this area (boosted by 44mm of our tax money)
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/technology/24wafer.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    I’d bet Intel will get it right first though vs. the systems companies.

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  3. Stacey-

    Really cool post! These kind of scientfic advances are really interesting, and I’ve really enjoyed reading/learning about them on this blog. Speaking of innovation, I’ve been working with Intel on The International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which started yesterday in Atlanta. This year’s program will include a record number of 1,557 high school students from 51 countries presenting 1,241 projects. Female students comprise 48% of those entered in the competition, and there are a ton of cutting-edge projects being featured. If you’d like any more info, please let me know!

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  4. Though a different take, also take a look at a Portland start up called Lightfleet, http://www.lightfleet.com. They are doing some amazing things around a free-space optical (laser) interconnect that with their shared data space programming model promises massive performance gains for HPC applications.

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  5. Stacey Higginbotham Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    @SR, thanks for the tip, I’m checking into HPC stuff right now and they look interesting.

    @Paul, The ISEF sounds like a great organization. In about 12 years I hope it’s still around for my daughter to participate in.

    @Rohit, thanks for reminding me about Sun’s stuff. I should have included that.

    @Frank, Luxtera is mentioned in the story, but I do want to find out more.

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  6. @ Stacey, this was the 59th year of the competition, and judging from the participants this year, the program is only getting bigger and better. Can’t wait to have your daughter as a participant!

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  7. [...] the clock speed of chips to increasing the number of cores on a chip. They’re also trying to replace wires with light or store more data in semiconductors that can be built into towers, rather than lay flat. Looking a [...]

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