Laser manufactured optical chip to deliver supercomputer 1 terabit transfer

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Twenty-four channel 850nm vertical cavity surface emitting lasers and photodiode arrays are being directly flip-chip soldered to a 90nm-scale microchip for IBM's prototype Holey Optochip, which the computing giant claims is the first parallel optical transceiver able to transmit one trillion bits, one terabit, of information per second.

According to IBM, 1Tbps is eight times faster than parallel optical components available today and the future of computing will rely heavily on optical chip technology for the big data and cloud computing that is expected. To achieve 1Tbps transfer, the Holey Optochip has 48 through-silicon holes, or optical vias, one for each transmitter and receiver channel. These are produced using a laser to drill through the vias in the wafer.

Measuring 5.2 x 5.8mm, the Holey Optochip is to enable the ultra-high interconnect bandwidth networks needed for future supercomputers. The Holey Optochips are designed for direct coupling to a standard 48-channel multimode fibre array through an efficient microlens optical system that can be assembled with conventional high-volume packaging tools.

IBM Researcher Clint Schow is part of the team that built the prototype. He said: ‘We have been actively pursuing higher levels of integration, power efficiency and performance for all the optical components through packaging and circuit innovations. We aim to improve on the technology for commercialisation in the next decade with the collaboration of manufacturing partners.’