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IBM's optical chipset prototype crushes competition with 1 terabit per second speed

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Researchers at IBM are reporting on a prototype design for the world's fastest optical chipset, called the Holey Optochip. The new chip reaches speeds of one terabit per second.

holey optochip 1
holey optochip 1

People are getting some incredible speeds on fiber optic arrays these days, but that's only part of the problem — the other part is how to get the information on and off the cable. To this end, scientists at IBM have come up with a prototype design for the world's fastest parallel optical chipset, called the Holey Optochip, with a top speed of one terabit per second. To put the speed in perspective, that's about 100 times the speed of a current generation copper-based Thunderbolt connection, the equivalent of streaming 500 high definition movies, and eight times faster than parallel optical components available today.

The new chip measures 5.2 x 5.8 millimeters and is built using conventional semiconductor techniques — once it's fabricated, the 24-channel photodiode and VCSEL laser arrays needed for transmitting and receiving signals are soldered directly to it, flip-chip style (the solder blobs are placed on the back of the chip before it's flipped over onto the circuitry). The Holey Optochip isn't just fast, either; it only draws five watts of power, making it among the most efficient parallel optical chipsets out there. With newer hardware and applications taking up more and more bandwidth, it's good to know that there are solutions on the horizon. IBM aims to "improve on the technology for commercialization in the next decade with the collaboration of manufacturing partners."