Using only processes found in existing microchip fabrication facilities, researchers at MIT, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Colorado have produced a working optoelectronic microprocessor, which computes electronically but uses light to move information. Two of the first four co-authors of the work are MIT graduate students Chen Sun and Jason Orcutt, who has since joined IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center.
Optical communication could dramatically reduce chips’ power consumption, which is not only desirable in its own right but essential to maintaining the steady increases in computing power that we’ve come to expect. Demonstrating that optical chips can be built with no alteration to existing semiconductor manufacturing processes should make optical communication more attractive to the computer industry. But it also makes an already daunting engineering challenge even more difficult. Read more