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New Route to Electronics Inside Optical Fibers

Penn State plan produces photodetectors in optical fibers

3 min read
New Route to Electronics Inside Optical Fibers


Image: Badding Lab/Penn State University
Optoelectronic: Light [center] traveling down the core of a new kind of optical fiber is converted to electrical signals by a photodetector embedded in the fiber [right]. Click on the image to enlarge.

8 February 2012—In a step toward simpler, faster telecommunication systems, researchers at Penn State University and the University of Southampton, in England, have embedded high-performance electronic devices within optical fibers. Their technique involves depositing semiconductors inside ultrathin holes in the fiber. Using this scheme, they built a detector that converts optical data into electrical signals at frequencies as high as 3 gigahertz.

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.


If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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