Using light to process information optoelectronic chips is 10 to 50 times faster than ordinary electronic microprocessors

American scientists said that they have recently developed the world's first optoelectronic chip that uses light to process information. It still uses electronics to calculate, but it can use light directly to process information. This achievement may open the door to ultra-high-speed, low-energy data processing. The findings were published in the journal Nature on December 24.

According to the official website of the University of California at Berkeley, the chip was developed by the school and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Colorado. The chip is 3 mm wide and 6 mm long. The data processing speed per square millimeter can reach 300 gigabits per second (Gbps), which is 10 to 50 times faster than ordinary electronic microprocessors. This chip also consumes very little energy for processing data, and consumes only 1.3 picojoules of energy per bit of data.

Although the development of optical fiber communication technology has greatly enhanced the data transmission between computers, it is very difficult to apply photonic devices to the computer chip itself. The reason is that no one has ever known how to incorporate photonic devices into this complex and expensive manufacturing process without changing the computer chip manufacturing process. This is critical because it does not further increase the cost or risk of manufacturing a computer chip.

To achieve this goal, the researchers tried a variety of innovative methods of using photonic devices on chips. They use photonic devices such as photodetectors and vertical grating couplers to control and direct the light waves on the chip. In order to minimize the loss of light waves on the chip, they use silicon transistors as waveguides for light waves. In addition, they designed a silicon ring next to the waveguide to control light waves quickly and with low power consumption. In the end, the researchers fixed two processor cores with 70 million transistors and 850 photonic devices on the microchip.

The report believes that this research results mark important advances in fiber-optic communication technology and will accelerate the advent of the high-bandwidth era. “This is a milestone, it is the first processor that can use light to communicate with the outside world,” said Vladimir Stojanovic, research director and associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the school.

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