January 24, 2006, Santa Clara, CA--Intel has unveiled a silicon-based optical modulator that operates at 30 Gbit/s. The device is intended as a component in on-chip photonics systems to transfer data at high speeds from chip to chip via optical fiber. These systems will also include hybrid lasers (already announced by Intel) and high-speed photodetectors.
The optical modulator, which contains a p-n junction in a silicon-on-insulator waveguide, is based on the free-carrier plasma-dispersion effect, in which the refractive index changes as a function of electric-field-induced carrier depletion. Electronic performance is crucial; the device is designed so that the electrical and optical signals propagate together down the waveguide. The device can be modulated at 20 GHz (3 dB bandwidth).
Intel aims to boost the data rate further, to 40 Gbit/s, and to integrate dozens onto a single chip that also includes hybrid lasers of different wavelengths and a multiplexer to combine their signals; 40 laser/modulators on a chip would result in a terabit transmission capability, all integrated in silicon (except for the optical fiber). In one potential use, many boards containing these silicon photonic chips could coexist side by side, communicating with each other to form a supercomputer far beyond the scale of today's fastest. They will also be well suited for use in data communications and computing in general.
Intel is presenting its results at Photonics West 2007 (San Jose, CA; January 20 to 25, 2007).
For more information, visit www.intel.com.