Scientists score Eureka Prize for work on optical interconnects

Optical interconnects may overcome energy and bandwidth bottlenecks

An Australian team of scientists have scored the 2011 Eureka Prize for Innovation in Computer Science for their work developing a laser that allows light to be generated on silicon chips.

David Moss, an associate professor from the School of Physics at the University of Sydney, said the win was unexpected but admitted he had been hopeful.

“I knew I was a finalist and I guess I was optimistic just based on the nature of the breakthrough result, but I was still quite pleasantly surprised,” he said.

Moss and his team spent the last five years on the laser research. The multiple wavelength laser is on a silicon-compatible chip and can generate multiple wavelengths at one time, which produces ultra-short light pulses at fast speeds to transmit data.

This development could potentially revolutionise the way computer chips communicate, and help overcome the energy and bandwidth shortcomings of electrical wires as it uses less energy to send larger volumes of information.

“It’s a contribution towards the general effort towards putting optics on computer chips … to overcome the limits of wires, using electrical wires, on chips because they’re really fundamentally limited in terms of energy consumption and bandwidth,” Moss told Techworld Australia.

“Optics doesn’t have those sorts of limitations associated with it. This sort of device is one key component needed in this whole effort to put optics on computer chips.”

“Computer chips are already undergoing a revolution at the moment, in the sense that companies like Intel and so on are putting multiple processors on one chip, its multi-core processors,” Moss said.

“In a sense that really compounds the problem because all of these multiple processors have to talk to each other to send information around on the chip and that requires sending data around at really high speeds efficiently and that’s adding to the burden of these electrical wires.

“So it’s really, in the next few years it’s really going to, the next revolution in computer chips is going to need optics in order to send the data around on chips.”

However, it is early days for optical interconnects, with the technology still in the research phase and needing further refinement. Moss and his team have conducted more experiments and published more demonstrations since the research that scored them the Eureka Prize.

One of the latest products of their research is a paper that demonstrates short pulse, high repetition rate lasers that would enable high data to be sent down a fibre.

Follow Diana Nguyen on Twitter: @diananguyen9

Follow Techworld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

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