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January 20th, 2008
"Copper-wire interconnects place serious limitations on the performance of silicon integrated circuits," says Dries Van Thourhout from Ghent University's Photonics Research Group and Belgium's micro- and nanoelectronics research centre IMEC. "It is hard to transmit data down these interconnects in a sufficiently fast, power-efficient way. It is a problem of bandwidth and copper will not be able to cope with the processing power of tomorrow's microchips."
Optical interconnects use light instead of electrons to represent information; they are a highly appealing alternative to copper interconnects, with the potential to be far more efficient, transmitting more data but using the same or even less power.
Instead of travelling along copper wires, photons travel the distance between source and detector along wave guides, like miniature optical fibres. At this scale, however, the wave guides are made out of silicon rather than glass.
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