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HPE's New Chip Marks a Milestone in Optical Computing

The experimental 1,000-component optical processor is made for challenges like the “traveling salesman problem”

4 min read
Photo: Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Photo: Hewlett Packard Enterprise

/image/Mjg0NDIwOA.jpegLight And Heat: A lot of the real estate on this all-optical processor is taken up by wiring for on-chip heaters.Image: Hewlett Packard Enterprise

We may use photons to carry our data, but we rely on the electron to put it to use. One day that division of labor might not be so stark. A team at Hewlett Packard Labs, in Palo Alto, Calif., has built a demonstration chip that could help push some particularly thorny computations into the realm of light, potentially boosting speed and saving energy in the process.

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3 Ways 3D Chip Tech Is Upending Computing

AMD, Graphcore, and Intel show why the industry’s leading edge is going vertical

8 min read
Vertical
A stack of 3 images.  One of a chip, another is a group of chips and a single grey chip.
Intel; Graphcore; AMD
DarkBlue1

A crop of high-performance processors is showing that the new direction for continuing Moore’s Law is all about up. Each generation of processor needs to perform better than the last, and, at its most basic, that means integrating more logic onto the silicon. But there are two problems: One is that our ability to shrink transistors and the logic and memory blocks they make up is slowing down. The other is that chips have reached their size limits. Photolithography tools can pattern only an area of about 850 square millimeters, which is about the size of a top-of-the-line Nvidia GPU.

For a few years now, developers of systems-on-chips have begun to break up their ever-larger designs into smaller chiplets and link them together inside the same package to effectively increase the silicon area, among other advantages. In CPUs, these links have mostly been so-called 2.5D, where the chiplets are set beside each other and connected using short, dense interconnects. Momentum for this type of integration will likely only grow now that most of the major manufacturers have agreed on a 2.5D chiplet-to-chiplet communications standard.

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