Intel Makes Experimental Component for Linking Chips With Light

Device is key to future gigahertz silicon transceivers on a chip and optical interconnects for computers

4 min read

13 February 2004--The road to faster computing is paved with optical interconnects that can speed signals from computer to computer or from circuit to circuit much faster than the metal wires used today. Currently, the essential optical components that convert data from electrical to optical bits and back again, mainly used in networks to communicate over distances from meters to kilometers, are made of exotic and expensive materials--too pricey to put into PCs, workstations, and servers.

But a new silicon device that can modulate light at a rate of 1 GHz is the first step in developing a set of optical components that can take advantage of silicon's vast infrastructure to build complete optical systems cheaply. The device, an optical modulator that encodes data 50 times faster than any previous silicon component, was developed by researchers at Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., and announced in yesterday's issue of the journal Nature.

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The Ultimate Transistor Timeline

The transistor’s amazing evolution from point contacts to quantum tunnels

1 min read
A chart showing the timeline of when a transistor was invented and when it was commercialized.

Even as the initial sales receipts for the first transistors to hit the market were being tallied up in 1948, the next generation of transistors had already been invented (see “The First Transistor and How it Worked.”) Since then, engineers have reinvented the transistor over and over again, raiding condensed-matter physics for anything that might offer even the possibility of turning a small signal into a larger one.

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