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IBM keeps light pulse bandwagon rolling, uses 'em for chip-to-chip communication

Darren Murph

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Lenovo loves its red mousing nipple, Apple digs its aluminum and IBM adores those light pulses. Nearly two full years after we heard this very company touting breakthroughs in science thanks to a nanophotonic switch, in flies a similar technique from Yorktown Heights that could "greatly further energy efficient computing." As the story goes, gurus at IBM have figured out how to replace electrical signals that communicate via copper wires between computer chips with tiny silicon circuits that chat using pulses of light. The device is called a nanophotonic avalanche photodetector, and according to Dr. T.C. Chen, this kind of embedded optical interconnection makes the "prospect of building power-efficient computer systems with performance at the Exaflop level" something that could be seen in the not-so-distant future. Reportedly, the avalanche photodetector demonstrated by IBM is the world's fastest device of its kind, able to receive optical information signals at 40Gbps and simultaneously multiply them tenfold. We know that's over some of your (read: our) heads, but there's a sufficiently nerdy video after the break that gets right down to the whos, whats, whys and wheres.

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