Engineers have created a cohesive final product capable of transmitting information at ultrahigh speed while generating minimal heat by integrating an electronics chip with a photonics chip (which uses light to transfer data). The new electronic-photonic chip design could impact the future of data centers that handle massive amounts of data communication.
Data communication speed between different chips in high-performance computers is constantly increasing. Data processing occurs on electronic circuits, whereas data transmission occurs most efficiently via photonics. Achieving ultrahigh speed in each domain is difficult, but engineering the interface between them is even more difficult.
To address this challenge, the team created an electronic-photonic chip from the ground up and co-optimized them to work together. The process took four years, from the initial concept to the final lab test, with every design decision affecting both chips.
They needed to optimize the entire system simultaneously to achieve superior power efficiency. These two chips are made for each other, with three-dimensional integration.
The optimized interface between the electronic-photonic chip enables them to transmit 100 gigabits per second while producing only 2.4 picojoules per transmitted bit. It increases the transmission’s electro-optical power efficiency by a factor of 3.6 over the current state-of-the-art.
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