Silicon Photonics – New Era of Chip Design

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Ever heard about Photonics? Photonics is the process of generation, emission, transmission and various processes that deals with light. It is the next generation of chip processing that will be much efficient, low power consuming, higher bandwidth and smaller the size of components involved. Though it is still in the research level and not yet ready for a commercial process, photonics still stand for the future. Silicon Photonics is one of the fast growing research area in this topic and IBM has claimed to have advanced the technology a significant step by integrating a silicon photonic chip on the same package as a CPU. With the need for much faster computing process, silicon photonics could help us scale to exascale computing operations.

Bert Offrein, manager of the Photonics group at IBM research Center – Zurich tells that

“This integration scheme has the potential to massively reduce the cost of applying photonics optical interconnects in computing systems,” Offrein said. Cheaper photonic enables its deployment at a large scale, which will lead to computing systems that can process more information at higher performance levels and with better energy efficiency, he explained.

“Such systems will be key for future applications in the field of cloud-computing, big data, analytics and cognitive computing. In addition, it will enable novel architectures requiring high communication bandwidth, as for example in disaggregated systems,” Offrein said. (1)

One of the major obstacles to building silicon photonics on-package has been adapting the waveguides to chip packaging technology. Current silicon photonics put the equipment and transceivers at the edge of the board, but don’t route wires through the package. In order to build the waveguides on-package, IBM had to develop a method of connecting the silicon waveguides to polymer waveguides, despite their vastly different sizes. This was achieved by slowly tapering the silicon waveguides and precisely aligning the two parts.

We still have to wait for quite sometime inorder to use this great research in our homes.


Manigandan Siva.,