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New frontier: Chips transfer data at light speed

Projects news & results: 04/04/2012 - 02:00
The computer industry is nearing a crisis: microchips get smaller and faster but they struggle to transfer data at sufficient speeds. Microprocessors do their calculations with electrons, and they transfer data within and between chips using electrons too. The powerful microprocessors in computers today use vast quantities of data and perform millions of calculations per second, but the connections can’t keep up; they simply can not shift electrons fast enough. Now EU-funded researchers have shown how chips with built-in lasers which use multiple wavelengths of light could in the future transmit data at terabit speeds. The real trick is that light can be 'multiplexed'; you can send photons of different wavelengths through your interconnect at the same time. Use three wavelengths and you effectively triple the speed of data transmission.