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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 February, 2004, 11:05 GMT
Intel makes light work for chips
Silicon wafer in chip plant, Intel
Fast networks could get cheaper thanks to Intel
The speed data travels around the net could get a boost thanks to research by chip giant Intel.

Scientists at the company have found a way to use silicon to move light around rather than just electrons.

The breakthrough could make it much easier to use light inside computer processors as well as make it cheaper to build fast computer networks.

Intel said that the technology should start showing up in devices by the end of the decade.

Speed demon

Silicon has become the material of choice for computer processors because it is cheap and because electrons move through it in ways that can be easily controlled and do useful work.

Now Intel researchers have found a way to do make silicon do almost the same thing with light at speeds almost 50 times faster than anyone has demonstrated before.

Writing in the journal Nature, Intel scientists Ansheng Liu and colleagues said they had built a silicon modulator that can send a billion pulses of light a second down fibre-optic cables.

The Intel researchers are confident that they can boost the pulsing speed of their modulator tenfold by the end of the year.

The research could mean that silicon starts to be used in the heart of fibre-optic networks that have typically relied on exotic and expensive materials such as gallium arsenide and indium phosphide to move light pulses around.

"This is a significant step toward building optical devices that move data around inside a computer at the speed of light," said Pat Gelsinger, Intel technology boss, in a statement.

He said the breakthrough could help the net run faster, accelerate the speed of computer processors and perhaps lead to ultrahigh-definition displays.


SEE ALSO:
Scientists freeze beam of light
10 Dec 03  |  Science/Nature
Quantum computer draws closer
21 May 03  |  Science/Nature
Global broadband keeps climbing
06 Jan 04  |  Technology
Intel chips get power boost
02 Feb 04  |  Technology
Chip launch ushers in new era
23 Sep 03  |  Technology
IBM's hot tip for data storage
12 Jun 02  |  Science/Nature


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