Intel lab announces 40Gbps silicon laser modulator breakthrough

Straight from the Silicon Photonics research wing at the Photonics Technology Lab of Intel comes the news that a new breakthrough has just been achieved. The team was able to create a silicon laser modulator that encodes optical data at a hitherto unreached speed of 40 billion bits per second.

The breakthrough has nothing to do with the raw throughput, but more to the fact that this performance level was reached in silicon.

Excerpt from the blog entry at Research@Intel:

Today's commercially available optical modulators at 10 Gbps are based on more exotic electro-optic materials such as lithium niobate and III-V compound semiconductors. These devices have deployed at speeds up to 40 Gbps...

According to Dr. Ansheng Liu, Principal Engineer at Intel, the challenge of achieving similar performance in silicon is far from trivial. The reason has to do with crystalline silicon not exhibiting the linear electro-optic (Pockels) effect that is used to modulate light in these materials.

A highly integrated silicon photonic circuit has the potential to dramatically lower the cost for future optical interconnects within computers as well as with other devices.

Essentially, it will become possible to integrate multiple devices on a single chip, pushing an aggregate in excess of terabits per second. Tera-scale computing would truly have arrived. What do you think about Intel's breakthrough?