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December 3rd, 2010
Today's computer chips are chunks of silicon that use electrical pulses to crunch data. But IBM researchers are now making chips for tomorrow: chunks of silicon that also contain pathways for light pulses.
These optical circuits can exchange information with the conventional, electronic circuits in the same chip. This could transport data inside a computer significantly faster, because light signals can transport larger quantities of data at higher speeds than conventional copper electrical wiring can. A chip could use its optical—photonic—circuits for high-speed input and output.
"We need faster ways to shuttle information around," says Solomon Assefa, a member of the research team at IBM's Watson Research Center in Yorktown, New York. "Our main motivation is to build, in five years or so, exascale systems that will be 1,000 times faster than what we have now."
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