A Quantum Leap For Photonics

Highly integrated optical circuits could transform networks

5 min read

The conversion of data from optical to electrical and that from electrical to optical are key functions in optical communications. Obviously, optical data can go down optical fibers only in optical form, but processing it--for example, to remove accumulated noise or to add or drop data streams--requires digitized electrical pulses.

Until now, this conversion and reconversion process has been complicated and costly because of the many components needed to do the job. But new technology from Infinera Corp., a start-up in Sunnyvale, Calif., promises to make the transformations simple and inexpensive by combining more than 50 optical components--all the elements needed to convert as many as 10 optical data streams from light to electrons and back to light again--onto just two photonic ICs.

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper
Green

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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