IBM integrates silicon photonic chips with processor package for energy efficiency

Overcomes transceiver pre-assembling challenge

Bert Offrein, manager of the photonics group at IBM Research - Zurich, holding silicon photonic chips integrated with an array of polymer waveguides. Credit: IBM Research

Bert Offrein, manager of the photonics group at IBM Research - Zurich, holding silicon photonic chips integrated with an array of polymer waveguides. Credit: IBM Research

Big Blue has found a way to make large-scale computing more energy efficient by integrating photonic chips with a processor package.

"Such systems will be key for future applications in the field of cloud computing, big data, analytics and cognitive computing,” said Bert Offrein, manager of the photonics group at IBM Research – Zurich.

“In addition, it will enable novel architectures requiring high communication bandwidth, as for example in disaggregated systems.”

Optical links offer more energy efficiency than copper-based links, but are usually deployed in data centres by attaching discrete transceivers in pre-assembled building blocks. As this is expensive, it can be difficult to do on a large scale, IBM said.

IBM has attached its silicon photonic chips to a processor package in order to overcome this pre-assembling challenge so it can be deployed at large scale and to do high performance, energy efficient computing.

"This integration scheme has the potential to massively reduce the cost of applying silicon photonics optical interconnects in computing systems," Offrein said.

"In addition to the silicon technology advancements at the chip-level, novel system-level integration concepts are also required to fully profit from the new capabilities silicon photonics will bring.”

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