April - 2008 - issue > Tech Tracker
IBM develops world's tiniest Nanophotonic Switch
Christo Jacob
Monday, March 31, 2008
IBM researchers continue to innovate with the concept of the world’s tiniest nanophotonic switch. With a footprint 100x smaller than the cross section of a human hair, the nanophotonic switch can send information inside a computer chip by using light pulses instead of electrons.

The breakthrough brings Big Blue another step closer to creating chips that control the flow of information inside future chips and can significantly speed up the chip performance while using much less energy.

Yurii Vlasov, Manager of silicon nanophotonics at IBM’s TJ Watson Research Center finds that the new development is putting life into the quest for building multi-core computer chips, which aids in faster, smaller, and more energy efficient data transmission. The switch is the outcome of the research piece titled ‘High-throughput silicon nanophotonic wavelength-insensitive switch for on-chip optical networks’ in the journal Nature Photonics by Yurii Vlasov, William M. J. Green, and Fengnian Xia of IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights.

The device is able to route a huge amount of data since many different wavelengths of light can be switched simultaneously. With each wavelength carrying data at up to 40 Gb/s, it is possible to switch an aggregate bandwidth exceeding 1 Tb/s, a requirement for routing large messages between distant cores. The research guarantees that in a realistic on-chip environment the optical switch can send 100 times more information between cores, while using 10 times less power.
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