Researchers backed in part by the Swedish-based international giant Ericsson have apparently come another step closer to unifying the worlds of photonics and silicon. They have produced a silicon photonics switch designed to integrate thousands of optical circuits on a single chip.
Silicon photonics has been just beyond the horizon for a long time now, promising to bring the economics of CMOS to bear on telecommunictions gear. Some pieces of it have started to show up in specific applications, and this monolithic integration will certainly help those start to gain real scale. But there are still puzzle pieces not yet found. The biggest remaining hurdle, it seems, is the integration of the laser itself onto a silicon medium.
The research is part of an IRIS project co-funded by the European Commisssion as a Specific Target Research Project (STREP) under the FP7 umbrella. And if you know what any of those are beyond the acronym definitions themselves, then you are probably a photonics researcher, which I am not.
But its interesting, nonetheless. The pace of bandwidth growth isn't going to stop, so the underlying technology of supplying it had better not either. Plenty of other groups are working on it as well of course, including ones backed by the likes of Intel and IBM.
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