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IBM slows light, readies it for networking

By Michael Kanellos, News.com
Published on ZDNet News: Nov 2, 2005 6:39:00 PM

Tags: Michael Kanellos, Hardware

IBM has created a chip that can slow down light, the latest advance in an industrywide effort to develop computers that will use only a fraction of the energy of today's machines.

The chip, called a photonic silicon waveguide, is a piece of silicon dotted with arrays of tiny holes. Scattered systematically by the holes, light shown on the chip slows down to 1/300th of its ordinary speed of 186,000 miles per second. In a computer system, slower light pulses could carry data rapidly, but in an orderly fashion. The light can be further slowed by applying an electric field to the waveguide.

Researchers at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley, have slowed light in laboratories. IBM, though, claims that its light-slowing device is the first to be fashioned out of fairly standard materials, potentially paving the way toward commercial adoption.

A number of companies and university researchers are currently tinkering with ways to replace the electronic components inside computers, which ferry signals with electrons, with optical technology. Optical equipment ferries data on photons, the smallest measure of light. Photons are far faster. More important, optical equipment generates less heat, curbing the growing problem of heat and power consumption.

The catch, however, is that until recently, creating optical components has been more of an art than a science. The components cost a lot to make and can't be cranked out in the millions like silicon chips. Another factor: Optical parts are typically big, unlike silicon chips, which measure only a few millimeters on a side.

Progress in blending the best of both technologies is advancing rapidly, however. Intel has demonstrated a Raman laser fashioned from silicon. Intel and start-up Luxtera have shown off silicon modulators, which chop up the light from a laser so that it can represent data.

IBM's silicon waveguide, as the name suggests, would channel light pulses created by the laser and modulator.

When the optical conversion might start to occur is a matter of speculation. Luxtera has said it will start to commercially produce products in 2007. The computer industry, however, tends to move slowly when it comes to major overhauls of computer architecture. Several components will have to be developed before photos can replace electrons inside computers.

A paper providing details on the chip will run in Nature on Wednesday.

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Most Recent of 47 Talkback(s)

Deja vu is one way of saying it

The bottom line is "we have all been here before".
Ask any Taoist ... (Read the rest)

Print/View all Posts Posted by: s_p_morris@... Posted on: 01/03/07 You are Logged In | Log out
What does this mean for time travel? kentompkins   | 11/02/05
Means nothing george_ou  ZDNet | 11/02/05
Time travel? You are such a geek. heatwave218   | 11/03/05
Time Travel happens every day.... JBTascam   | 11/03/05
You're a jerk kentompkins   | 11/03/05
What does this mean for time travel? richardniolon   | 11/03/05
Time travel is NOT POSSIBLE? lfeldman@...   | 12/02/05
No, one could not travel back in time Drex5000   | 11/02/05
Time may not be absolute... n3qnj   | 11/02/05
Happy to tell you... wordmuse   | 11/03/05
Re: Time may not be absolute... IndredKold   | 12/04/05
Have you not heard of anti-time? Delmont   | 11/02/05
Then why don't we remember the future? Drex5000   | 11/03/05
I have remembered the future and travelled in time to a future event. s_p_morris@...   | 12/02/05
Strainge... drew1313   | 12/03/05
Deja vu is one way of saying it s_p_morris@...   | 01/03/07
terrific speed makes time stand still ? Patriot820DC   | 11/07/05
Think about this... FallGuy7254   | 01/03/06
Time travel JohnRoche   | 12/02/05
Sure! GeneBuettner   | 01/03/06
If you can slow down light, then you can at least slow down time FallGuy7254   | 01/03/06
speed of light and time are not the same Patriot820DC   | 11/03/05
Ahhh...physics! questionsall   | 12/02/05
A basic (but understandable) misunderstanding... zhaeon   | 11/03/05
Physics questionsall   | 12/02/05
Good Question MildlyAmuzed   | 12/05/05
Light Speed Stacks33   | 11/02/05
Future Drex5000   | 11/02/05
Future Stacks33   | 11/02/05
Message has been deleted. fagface   | 11/02/05
Slowing of light? Skippy01   | 11/03/05
Speed not of Light cluck_rocket   | 11/03/05
Right, speed not of light heatwave218   | 11/03/05
vsl variable speed of light. jister   | 11/04/05
The proof is very simple woot!   | 12/02/05
SLOWING LIGHT SPEED tomasgordo   | 11/04/05
Minor point... questionsall   | 12/02/05
Changing the Negative and Positive Index of Refraction grey_eminence   | 11/04/05
Lightspeed jcorbett   | 12/02/05
Lightspeed jcorbett   | 12/02/05
Revolutionary? questionsall   | 12/02/05
Time travel? Peteff   | 12/03/05
Time travel? Peteff   | 12/03/05
Time travel ??? Blue Moon crystals ??? cavemanjp   | 12/03/05
Slowing down light, is really slowing down content BrookStone5   | 12/29/05
light "shown" on the chip? gigaFusion@...   | 01/04/06
it is very nice to here jayeshmp   | 07/14/06
What do you think?

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