photonic-processor-university-of-colorado

Researchers Develop First Light-Based Microprocessor

December 24, 2015 - Written By Derek Dykes

With the year winding down and everyone settling in for Christmas, we are still seeing huge developments in technology. 2015 was filled with many advancements and breakthroughs in core processors including things like the 6th Generation Intel Core Processor, codenamed “Skylake“. This processor was said to have two and a half times better performance, graphics that are 30 times better, and triple the battery life, all versus that of the average 5-year-old computer. With 2016 just around the corner, the University of Colorado showed that they aren’t quite finished with the year just yet.  

While collaborating with the University of California, Berkeley, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), researchers have developed a microprocessor chip that uses light to transfer data at much higher speeds than that of current processors, which use the traditional electrical circuits. The light-based processor also uses much less energy, giving future manufacturers and consumers a reason to get excited. With much less energy use and higher transfer speeds, this paves the way for greater computing uses in the future with endless possibilities.

This breakthrough design gives the new chip a bandwidth of 300 GBps (Gigabits Per Second) per square millimeter, which is close to 10 to 50 times greater than the current commercialized electrical microprocessor. While it does still have the electronic circuitry incorporated into the design, it introduces an 850 optical input/output component marking it truly one of a kind.

The device measures at 3 millimeters by 6 millimeters making it no bigger than a bead. Vladimir Stojanović, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California said, “It’s the first processor that can use light to communicate with the external world.” If this is the case, we are bound to see many great advances in how computers communicate and solve problems.

Researchers have also figured out the problem for future commercialization of the device, saying that since they can combine the optical and electronic circuitry on a single chip, this will make future manufacturing run as smooth as it already is. They have also figured out a way to reuse virtually the same materials that are already being utilized and have also replicated the process, making it even easier for the transition to the new future light-based product.