Intel Takes the Wraps off its Silicon Photonics Module

18 April 2013

Semiconductor chip maker Intel recently brought to the world a novel silicon photonics module which it claims is the first-ever technology that uses a hybrid silicon laser, Electronics News reports.

The module, presented as Intel Silicon Photonics Technology during a keynote at the Beijing Intel Developer Forum, was demoed at a speed of 100 Gb/s. The chip features silicon modulators, detectors, waveguides and circuitry. It has taken a decade for Intel to create its photonic technology, its chief technology officer Justin Rattner said.

Earlier in 2013, Rattner and Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim gathered to talk about the new technology. Bechtolsheim believes that copper-based chips have insufficient speed potential as they reduce the reach of links to some 5m. Speeding optics-based systems are a good solution to the issue, which is becoming a serious challenge for the industry, but unfortunately they are quite costly, which curtails their usefulness for certain high-end systems.

What could bridge the gap is the development of a technology that is fast enough, requires less power and is affordable. According to Bechtolsheim, Intel's innovation is the only technology that combines all these three components that can facilitate taking PCI connectivity out of the box to other boxes. The technology developed by Intel proves that 100-Gb/s transmission is commercially viable for the networking industry and it will take off as soon as it ships, he said.

Bechtolsheim is upbeat that the technology has the potential to make a difference, providing for a very high bandwidth interconnect and addressing concerns that the interconnect would hinder cloud/distributed computing installations.