Breakthrough: First chip that uses light to transfer data
Researchers have finally found success in developing world's first ever chip that uses light to transfer data. The newly designed chip is several times faster, smaller and lighter than the conventional electricity based chip. In addition, the new light based chip consumes relatively less electricity.

For the first time ever researchers have developed a microprocessor chip that runs on light rather than electricity to transfer data at a very high speed. What’s more interesting is that the new light based chip uses very less power in transferring data when compared to the conventional electricity based chip.

Although the technology is in its initial stages but it can pave the way for cheaper, faster, better, and more powerful computing devices in near future and scientists believe that the new technology is a thing of future.

“Light based integrated circuits could lead to radical changes in computing and network chip architecture in applications ranging from smartphones to supercomputers to large data centres, something computer architects have already begun work on in anticipation of the arrival of this technology,” said Milos Popovic, assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in US.

All the electronic devices including laptops and smartphones use electronic circuits that need electricity to communicate and transfer messages to each other. However, in recent years, speed demands, volume and lesser availability of electricity has proven to be a limiting factor. To overcome this problem, study authors took the help of photonics which is way cheaper and faster.

Sending information using light rather than electricity reduces a microchip’s energy burden because light can be sent across longer distances using the same amount of power.

“One advantage of light based communication is that multiple parallel data streams encoded on different colours of light can be sent over one and the same medium – in this case, an optical wire waveguide on a chip, or an off-chip optical fibre of the same kind that as those that form the Internet backbone,” said Popovic, whose team developed the technology in collaboration with a team led by Rajeev Ram, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“Another advantage is that the infrared light that we use – and that also TV remotes use – has a physical wavelength shorter than 1 micron, about one hundredth of the thickness of a human hair,” said Popovic. “This enables very dense packing of light communication ports on a chip, enabling huge total bandwidth,” he said.

With the bandwidth density of 300 gigabits per second per square millimetre, the new light based chip is nearly 10 to 50 times better than the conventional electricity based microprocessors. Since the chip measures just 3 millimetres by 6 millimetres, scientists believe that it can bridge the gap between current high-speed electronics manufacturing and the needs of next-generation computing for chips with large-scale integrated light circuits.

The study appeared in the journal Nature.

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