IBM CHIPSET GOES LIGHT SPEED AHEAD

Promising lightning-fast connectivity, IBM Corp. today demonstrated a new optical transceiver chipset that can operate at speeds of up to 160 gigabits per second. The company said in a morning announcement that the chip will be presented by its designers at the 2007 Optical Fiber Conference, in Anaheim, Calif., later in the day. The experimental transceiver could be as much as eight times faster than competing optical components currently available, according to the computer giant.

Positioned as a tool for future use in corporate and consumer networks, the tiny new chip (measuring 3.25 by 5.25 millimeters) would, its makers claim, enable users to download a file the size of a full-length movie in about a second. Operating by moving light pulses around instead of electrical signals, IBM claims the new chips in personal computers or set-top boxes could spark a revolution in communications, computing, and entertainment.

"The explosion in the amount of data being transferred, when downloading movies, TV shows, music, or photos, is creating demand for greater bandwidth and higher speeds in connectivity," said T. C. Chen, vice president of science and technology at IBM Research. "Greater use of optical communications is needed to address this issue. We believe our optical transceiver technology may provide the answer."

The announcement stated that IBM researchers built an optical transceiver with driver and receiver integrated circuits in current complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) technology, the same standard, high-volume, low-cost technique used for most chips nowadays. The scientists then married the transceiver to the remaining components of the chipset with more exotic materials, such as indium phosphide and gallium arsenide, into a single integrated package. The resulting design should provide a high number of communications channels, as well as very high speeds per channel.

Manufacturers should be able to easily integrate the new chipset into optical printed circuit boards employing densely spaced polymer waveguide channels using mass assembly processes, according to the Armonk, N.Y., firm.

Partially funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, a full report on the new chipset ("160-Gb/s, 16-Channel Full-Duplex, Single-Chip CMOS Optical Transceiver") will be available from IBM on Thursday, the company announced.

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